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GOVERNMENT DETAILS NEW QUESTIONS FOR 2001 CENSUS

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Hansard 16 Feb: Column 1305-1308 ...
Hansard 16 Feb: Column 1305-1308

The 2001 census will be held on 29 April throughout the United Kingdom - although it will be underpinned by separate legislation in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In England and Wales the census is expected to cost about£202.3m, peers were told when they approved the Census Order 2000, which sets out new questions to be asked in the two countries. For the government, Lord McIntosh of Haringey said about three-quarters of the expenditure falls in the next two financial years.

A new-style question on household composition asks for the relationship of each person to the first person on the form, and the relationship between each person in the household. This is intended to provide information for a more detailed anaylsis of household and family structure.

There will be a revised question on 'ethnic group' - one of the main successes of the 1991 census, said Lord McIntosh. The wording of the revised question has been tested to ensure it is acceptable both to researchers' and planners' requirements and to be as acceptable as possible to those filling in the census form. The aim is to obtain additional information about people of mixed origin and sub-groups within the 'white' population, particularly the 'Irish'. The question also allows respondents to describe their ethnic group in their own words in a write-in option.

To help government understand the variations in the need of personal care and the more effective targeting of resources, said Lord McIntosh, a new question will ask about unpaid personal help given to people in poor health.

Another new question relates to length of time since last paid employment. This is intended to discover local differences in the periods of unemployment and the extent of long-term unemployment. Information from this question will also be used to assess and monitor disadvantage and exclusion, in education and training planning, in labour market analysis and in mortality studies.

The question on academic and vocational qualifications has been revised to help improve better education and training provision, and in monitoring take-up of government initiatives.

A question new in England and Wales - but which was included in the 1991 census in Scotland - asks what is the lowest floor level of a household's accomodation. The information will provide a more accurate measure of households living in potentially unsuitable accommodation, particularly those with children, or elderly residents or people with a long-term illness living several floors above the ground.

A Bill currently going through parliament will enable the census to ask for the first time a question about religious affiliation. The government and the Bill's sponsor, convenor of crossbench peers Lord Weatherill, have agreed to amend the Bill so that the answering of the question will be voluntary.

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