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Census information will be used only for statistical purposes, and ONS will not release any personal-level information. Noble Lords will know that it is a criminal offence to unlawfully pass on personal census data. Census information is exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act and the Data Protection Act.

The Government's policy is that data from questionnaires should be kept secure and closed to the public for the next 100 years, with the paper questionnaires being destroyed in a controlled and secure manner. The resulting electronic data will be registered under the Data Protection Act 1998, and the arrangements for handling the information during processing are to be the subject of an independent security review.

I turn to the cost of the census. The 2011 census in England and Wales is expected to cost around £480 million over the 10-year period. In its report on the 2001 census, the Treasury Select Committee recommended that any future census should be justified in cost-benefit terms. The ONS business plan to the Treasury for the 2011 census clearly demonstrated the unique value of the census and that the benefits of having the information far outweigh the costs of its collection. The identified cost benefits exceed £700 million, compared to a cost of £480 million.

More than £1 trillion is allocated to local authorities and to NHS primary care trusts in the 10 years between each census, on the basis of census information. The census cost equates to just 87p a year per person, which we believe demonstrates excellent value for money. The per capita costs in the UK are less than those for many other European countries that carry out similar censuses, and considerably less than the costs in America.

In summary, this census will meet crucial requirements for the statistical information that Governments and others cannot do without. The burden on respondents will be kept to a minimum and the questions have been fully tested and found acceptable and compatible with both UK and EU legislation. I am confident that we have the right census package for helping to shape tomorrow. I therefore commend the draft order to the Grand Committee. I beg to move.

Lord Bates: I thank the Minister for that thorough presentation of the detail of the order before us. I can keep my remarks brief in response as many of the issues were covered this week, as I am sure the Minister is aware, in the debate on this issue that took place in the First Delegated Legislation Committee in another place. That debate raised a number of the issues which

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we would otherwise have wanted to explore today, but I do not wish to detain the Grand Committee too much.

A number of questions were asked by my honourable friend Nick Hurd in the First Delegated Legislation Committee, but I wish to take this last opportunity to scrutinise the order and to elicit responses from the Minister, if possible, to his fair and reasonable questions. I should like to go over again the questions on which we seek clarification.

The first question relates to costs, to which the Minister has just referred. The costs of the census in 2001 were £214 million; it is projected that the costs will rise to £482 million in 2011. Clearly this increase in costs represents a significant increase over the rate of inflation. As not many more homes will be covered, and given that the public finances are in a state of distress, would it not be appropriate to revisit that figure to see whether it can be reduced? However, before pursuing that line, can the Minister respond to the specific question of whether the increase in costs can be explained?

The second question asked by my honourable friend Nick Hurd in the Committee in another place concerned the assumptions used in awarding the contract to the American company Lockheed Martin. What assumptions were made about the response rate for the 2011 census? Some data show that the census response rate in 1991 was 96 per cent and that in 2001 it had fallen to 93.9 per cent. An essential critique of the order before us is that, by lengthening the form and increasing the number of questions and their potential complexity, the level of response might be lower, and presumably when the contract was awarded to Lockheed Martin an assumption was made. Could that assumption be put on record?

During the previous census there were seven times more calls than expected to the helpline which had been set up to assist people in completing the form-2.6 million in total. Given that the new census form is longer and more complex, what assumption has been made about the number of calls that might be made to the call centre, and what steps are to be taken to ensure that the extraordinary delays which people experienced previously are not experienced this time round?

This will be effectively the first census carried out during the broadband era, if one might loosely describe it as such, and a lot of people will use computers to submit their response. There was e-mail help and technical support in 2001 but that system, too, was inundated. Can the Minister say what the response is likely to be in 2011 and what provisions have been made to ensure that people receive the help that they need with the forms to ensure as high a completion rate as possible?

The next question relates to the overall costs of those two factors, and this was one of the assumptions to which I should be very interested to hear the answer. What assumption is being made about the number of respondents who will complete the form online? That is an interesting point because my intuitive judgment is that the figure will be significantly higher than was the case in 2001. If that is so, again, intuitively

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one would expect that if more people complete the form online, there will be a need for fewer enumerators to knock on doors and fewer pieces of paper to be printed and processed, and that should surely reduce and not lead to a doubling of the costs.

Fourthly, my honourable friend Nick Hurd asked whether the Minister could publish the response rates to the 2009 rehearsals which the ONS and the Government conducted in a number of areas. This would place important findings in the public domain and would, had they been available, have informed the debate and perhaps allayed some unnecessary fears. Some have suggested that if the Government had found the response rates and the responses during the 2009 rehearsals helpful to their case, they might have deployed information received from them in support of these orders. Therefore, the fact that no information has been made available to the House on those rehearsals raises some concerns about confidence.

Fifthly, can the Minister tell the Committee roughly what proportion of responses will be extrapolated from fields that have been left blank? I understand that statistically what happens is as follows: if all 36 questions on the form have not been responded to-if, for example, five have not been answered-the enumerator extrapolates or guesses what the response would have been. Clearly, given that the Government are placing a great deal of store on the accuracy of data, if a significant amount of the data is the result of guesswork, that will raise a serious concern. Will we be guessing 20, 30 or 40 per cent of the answers? If, for example, as we were told, more than £1 trillion of taxpayers' money is to be directed by these data to health and local authority spend alone over the next 10 years, can we be confident that the data informing these choices are correct? Is it possible that the cost arising from misdirecting and misallocating funds could be much higher than the cost of the exercise itself?

Does the Minister agree with some of the expert opinions that have been expressed about the complexity of the data? Is she aware of the remarks of Professor Rees, a leading UK statistician, to the Public Accounts Committee on 19 November, when he said that as you expand the number of questions there must be a deterrent effect on response? Has she noted those comments? Could she respond to them?

5.30 pm

Is the Minister aware of remarks that were made by Sir John Kingman, who was chairman of the Statistics Commission when the 2001 census was undertaken? He wrote to my honourable friend Nick Hurd on 28 October 2009, saying, in commenting on the nature of the census preparations for 2011:

"It all happens with the best of intentions. The ONS consults government departments, local authorities and a variety of public and private organisations hungry for information on all sorts of matters. The result however is that the unfortunate citizen is presented with an array of questions which few will have the time or inclination to take seriously. Some will put in frivolous answers"-

we have the famous example of the Jedi faith, apparently the fourth largest religious group in the United Kingdom, which came out of the 2001 census-

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and forget it. He continues:

"Yet the statisticians take the results seriously, and provide the interested organisations with statistics with little indication of the inevitable margin of error. In 2001 the National Statistician even announced an exact figure for the total population, a figure which later proved to be greatly in error. You will recall the problems with the population count in London and Manchester. If the Census cannot accurately count the population, how reliable can it be on matters such as number of bedrooms?".

In the previous census, 38 people were prosecuted for non-completion of forms, but 7 per cent of the households that the forms went to did not respond. What assumptions has the Minister made about the number of people who are likely to be prosecuted this time around, especially as the powers that were referred to are rather draconian? The ONS has asserted, and this was cited by my honourable friend Nick Hurd, that it will be,

That is pretty heavy stuff, as is a £1,000 fine. It would be useful to know what assumptions have been made.

What steps have been taken to stop citizens falling victim to phishing attacks? Apparently this is an IT term, although I was not familiar with it. It relates to these spam e-mails that we receive purporting to be from a bank, a building society or the Inland Revenue service. What has the ONS done to avoid such attacks from fraudsters?

How many census enumerators will be hired for the 2011 census? How many of them will be trained in the issue of cautions under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act in order to chase non-compliance? As was stated earlier, they are going to have the power to formally interview under caution. If those data are to be used afterwards in a court of law, they would need to follow precise guidelines. If the person is being questioned under caution, would they not also have the right to some legal representation? They may be vulnerable people who would be intimidated not only by the form and its length but by overzealous enumerators coming down to ask why they had not responded.

I turn finally to overcrowding and bedrooms, which has excited great interest. I have even heard suggestions from student groups that census parties will be held on 27 March, where tens, if not hundreds, of people will be invited round to certain houses with one or two bedrooms and will all be listed, complete with their names and dates of birth, as being at that address at that time. That seems to us a step too far-a level of meddling way beyond what is necessary.

Will the Minister give us a specific example of where knowing the sex, date of birth and name of the person who was staying in a property overnight on 27 to 28 March would be used to inform an aspect of government policy? In other words, when would it be useful to ask that question? When, without an answer to it, would the Government not be able to know X or Y? I am sure that it is a fairly easy question and that the Minister will be able to give many examples, but it represents a level of infringement of privacy that many people of a liberal disposition would find very uncomfortable.

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I am grateful to the Committee for bearing with me while I have put these questions again. I hope that the Minister can offer reassurance.

Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, I thank the Minister for giving us a clear exposition of the importance of the census as an indicator of factual information that is utterly vital to determining, among other things, the distribution of public expenditure. I also suggest that this is quite an important debate, because, as the noble Lord, Lord Bates, said, it is the last public opportunity for consideration of these issues before the process goes into its concluding stages. He raised many points which I shall largely take as put so that the Minister can focus on them, but I have a number of questions and points of my own.

The consultation to which the Minister referred has been extensive, which is entirely appropriate, and I am glad that it has been conducted in the way that it has. It would be of interest to know whether the stakeholders to whom she referred, particularly the institutional stakeholders, had any comments to make about the costs. I was slightly surprised to read in the Explanatory Notes that no impact assessment had been produced for the order since no impact on the private or voluntary sector was foreseen. I am surprised not least because of the responsibility of those in communal establishments for providing information or for ensuring that information is provided. That includes hospitals, care homes and prisons-although they are not private institutions. There are cost implications for those complying with it. I accept that, for individuals, half an hour would probably be a sufficient allocation of time to reply even to the enlarged questionnaire.

The second broad policy question which I would like to raise-I am not aware that it has been raised in earlier debates-concerns the frequency with which the census is held in this country. There has been a 10-year census for a long time, I think, since it was introduced in 1801. However, I have noticed that a substantial number of countries, including Australia, Canada, Eire and New Zealand, conduct a census every five years. I do not know what extra cost that involves, or indeed whether some of the costs in the 10-year census might be obviated by having one more frequently, but it is fair to say that we are living in a very rapidly changing society. To some extent, that is reflected in the enlargement of the questionnaire to four pages from three-a 25 per cent increase-in the 10-year census. If we are making judgments about the statistics which it will yield, perhaps we should think about whether a census ought to be conducted within a shorter timeframe in future, so that the responses of Government to many of the issues to which the Minister referred could be more immediate and less "after the event".

The cost, which has been extensively referred to, is not inconsiderable. The Minister referred to the cost benefit, but £482 million is a very substantial sum. I would be grateful if the Minister would say a little more about the extent to which competition has been, and can yet be, involved in conducting the necessary preparations for this census. The competitiveness of contractual offers should be borne in mind, as well as the robustness of the testing of the possible conduct of

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the individual parts of the exercise. The census has produced a highly valued series of statistics historically, and this country has a good record on that which is generally recognised. It would not be proper to imply that I am seeking in some way to cut corners. Nevertheless, with very substantial contracts of this kind, it would be helpful to know about the process-who conducted it and how it was scrutinised-not necessarily because changes will be made on this occasion, but perhaps if they have been made in the process which has run in the 10 years since the last census.

As far as the range of questions is concerned, I have no great problem with the enlargement of the number of questions in principle because, as I have said, there have been considerable changes in the mobility of our society, in the ownership of second homes, and in the movements into and out of this country. The only question about that latter point is whether the personal information being sought in respect of visitors is really required or whether it is unduly intrusive. I have no doubt that the Minister will have a view about that.

5.45 pm

Many of the questions seem a little arbitrary, but no doubt they were thrown up by the consultations. For example, it is interesting that a question about the ownership of cars is there but not one about the ownership of IT equipment, which has expanded rapidly in the past 10 years and has become a principal mode of communication. How has this come about? How were these decisions taken? I am sure that there is a natural and proper reluctance to enlarge the questions, partly because the bigger they are the less incentive there is to make a complete return, or indeed to make a return at all.

There are some other new questions-for example, in respect of ethnicity. There is the category of "Arab" but no category of "Arab/White" or any kind of mixture. That, again, seems slightly arbitrary. Furthermore, as this country becomes more and more ethnically integrated, it raises a question about what it is proper to declare. I have a son-in-law who is half Bengali and half Irish; he lives in this country and will be expected to respond to the census. I am not entirely sure how he should answer these questions. When it comes to the point, although they are a little young to do it this time around, I wonder what my grandchildren will feel is an appropriate answer. These questions seem to be becoming a little sensitive. Although I understand the motivation to take account of the cultural backgrounds and interests of those sectors, we should reflect on this issue from now on because the younger generation is considerably more mixed ethnically than my generation and the one that followed it.

The question about a person's workplace address is open to subjective questioning. Individuals will have to assess what is their central workplace. Some people do a number of different jobs; some people may never attend the headquarters of the business to which they are attached; some people, such as contracted plumbers, move around all the time; others, of course, can conduct a great deal of their work from home but also work elsewhere. I am not sure how revelatory that question is or could be.

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The principal questions that I have in mind are, admittedly, of a general and broad nature. However, they raise issues about how the census is compiled. The Minister has helpfully indicated broad categories of people who were consulted, but some of the issues about national identity and whether you speak English very well, well, not very well or badly are entirely subjective. Some people who have spoken nothing but English all their lives might be regarded by others as speaking English very badly, but not necessarily by themselves.

Although I can see the point, the answers to these questions will not necessarily be entirely convincing. There has to be a certain awareness of the breadth of the questions and a certain amount of self perception is required to answer them in statistically reliable ways. I thank the Minister for her introductory remarks.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I am sorry I was not here to listen to the first few paragraphs of the opening remarks of the noble Baroness. I was very interested in the remarks I did hear and the speeches of both noble Lords opposite. I suppose I should be proud to be the only representative of the Back-Benchers in the House of Lords to attend this erudite debate.

I do not have too much to say. but I wish to raise the issue of confidentiality and the Freedom of Information Act. The noble Baroness assured us that the security could not be breached, which one has to accept. However, I remember that during the problems-if I can call them that-in the House of Commons over expenses, the Members of the House were assured that they were covered by privilege. However, it turned out that they were not covered by privilege; the information they were given about the security of the details, which they had given in confidence and expected would not be revealed to the general public, proved to be completely and utterly wrong and has caused certain problems. I hope the noble Baroness can reinforce the assurance she has given this afternoon that the information is definitely confidential and cannot be released to anyone.

My second point is on ethnicity.

Lord Maclennan of Rogart: Before the noble Lord moves on, is he interested in finding out a little more about Lockheed Martin, an issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Bates, and, in particular, what constraints there are on the information to which Lockheed Martin will have access? What will restrain it from losing, copying or otherwise mishandling the census data, bearing in mind that some may consider it is bound by the Patriot Act in the United States?

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: That is a very good intervention and very helpful. We need such assurances because so much information now is put on disks or whatever other storage capacity is available, such as memory sticks. Bearing in mind that some very important information regarding people's taxation has been lost, we are entitled to know what security is available and whether a private firm is as secure as I hope our own departments are. We need those important assurances.

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I will move on to ethnicity. The noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, raised this, and it was right and proper that he did. We are becoming obsessed with two things: ethnicity and sex, which I will come to in a moment.

The drive in this country should be for unity; instead of multiculturalism, we want integration. We want people to be happy that they are in Britain. We want people to feel British, and to feel that they belong here, rather than anywhere else. They should feel that they are a part of us, no matter what their colour, creed, religion, or anything else. I feel strongly that the motivation of Government, and indeed of Parliament, should be towards integration. I am not at all sure that asking people to define their ethnicity does that.

My wife and I had a recent experience with our local authority in Reading-not about the census, but about the electoral registration form. We decided to test the market, so to speak, to see what would happen. I put my nationality down on the form as Welsh, and my wife said she wanted me to put hers down as English. Lo and behold, when the register was proclaimed and I got the form for next year, there it was. My nationality-Welsh-was fine. I could be Welsh, but my wife could not be English. That was very worrying. The local authority would not accept "English", so it put "England". This, of course, was a ridiculous answer to the question of nationality, because there is no such nationality as England. For three years, I have been trying to get the local authority in Reading to accept English as a nationality. I still have not succeeded-they keep blaming it on a computer. I do not know whether English is to be accepted as a nationality by all authorities now, bearing in mind that it is on the census as such, and I would be interested if the Minister could comment on that. Perhaps it is a little unfair to ask her to do so, but nevertheless if she could I would be most obliged. My wife is very offended, and I am sure there are many other people who are offended that they cannot be English. As a Welshman, I am standing up this afternoon for the English.

Lord Maclennan of Rogart: I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, for allowing me to intrude again. It is just conceivable that there are people, and I would certainly count myself one, who regard themselves as glad to be Scottish, British, and European. I do not expect the noble Lord to be enthusiastic about that proposition, but it might be of interest to have such a multiple identity disclosed in the census returns.

6 pm

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I have to tell the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, that he is okay. The electoral registration officer will accept that he is Scottish. The trouble is that they will not accept that my wife is English, and she does not like it. There are a lot of other people around of the same opinion.

As for being European, I consider myself to be part of the continent of Europe-we are, after all, on the same continental shelf, which I am very happy about. However, I do not want be governed by an organisation

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called the European Union, which is completely undemocratic-I shall not go into its problems-and I am quite happy to be Welsh, British and European all at the same time. We should move towards an integrated community, not a split one.

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