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1 May 2019, Introduction of the Census (Return Particulars and Removal of Penalties) Bill
On 1 May 2019, the Census (Return Particulars and Removal of Penalties) Bill had its first reading in the House of Lords. The Bill will amend the Census Act 1920 to remove the penalty for not responding to new census questions on sexual orientation and gender identity, and add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Schedule of that Act. This means the 2021 Census in England and Wales, as set out in the proposals in December 2018 by the White Paper “Help Shape our Future: The 2021 Census of Population and Housing in England and Wales”, can include questions on sexual orientation and gender identity that can be answered on a voluntary basis.
Census Act 1920
This allows the UK Statistics Authority to carry out a census once Parliament has approved the necessary secondary legislation. This secondary legislation, in the form of a Census Order and Census Regulations, sets out how the census will be run. The secondary legislation specifies the date of the census, the questions to be included and methods of response.
The Census Act 1920 makes it compulsory for everyone in England and Wales to take part in the census.
Census legislative process
This section shows the different steps in the census legislative process, including the necessary secondary legislation.
Help Shape Our Future: The 2021 Census of Population and Housing in England and Wales
White papers are policy documents produced by the government. They set out recommendations for future legislation and inform Parliament and the public about those recommendations.
We have also published the documents on our website:
The census order is used to direct that a census is carried out. The order specifies:
the date the census will take place
the question topics to be included
the people who need to fill in the forms
the people to be included on the forms
It provides Parliament with an opportunity to debate and agree proposals for the census.
The census regulations set out the comprehensive arrangements that will be made to carry out the census. These include:
how the census will take place
the delivery and response options for the forms
the duties of census employees
confidentiality requirements for handling the forms containing personal information
The census regulations for England are laid before Parliament and for Wales are laid before the National Assembly for Wales.
Census legislation in Scotland and Northern Ireland
Legislative responsibility for the censuses in Scotland and Northern Ireland is devolved to the respective legislatures.
The conduct of the 2021 censuses in the UK
“The Conduct of the 2021 Censuses in the UK – A statement of agreement between the National Statistician and the Registrars General for Scotland and Northern Ireland” (164KB, PDF) outlines principles that the three census offices will work together on to make sure the 2021 censuses are successful in:
providing high-quality population and housing statistics for the UK
meeting the needs of data users
reflecting United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), Eurostat and other international requirements
This statement ensures that the independent censuses carried out in each constituent country of the UK provide consistent and high-quality statistics that meet user requirements for UK-level data.
The census offices consult regularly with users, keep this agreement under constant review and publish updates on progress.
A November 2016 update on progress is available.
- The conduct of the 2021 censuses in the UK - update November 2016 (328.1 kB pdf)
- The conduct of the 2021 censuses in the UK (168.0 kB pdf)
- Help Shape Our Future (906.5 kB pdf)
- Helpu i Lunio Ein Dyfodol (1.1 MB pdf)
- Equality Impact Assessment for the 2021 Census (118.1 kB pdf)