News and reports

3 March 2020, Draft Census (England and Wales) Order 2020

The Draft Census (England and Wales) Order 2020 was laid before Parliament by the Minister for the Constitution and Devolution on 2 March 2020, and is available online. Read the Draft Census (England and Wales) Order 2020.

The Order specifies:

  • that the census will take place on 21 March 2021

  • the question topics to be included

  • the people who need to fill in the forms

  • the people to be included on the forms

The Order provides Parliament with an opportunity for each House to debate and agree the proposals for the census Subsequently, Census Regulations will be laid before Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales.

To accompany the Order, the ONS has updated the Equality Impact Assessment for the 2021 Census (which was previously published alongside the 2018 White Paper) and published a summary of its Data Protection Impact Assessment

8 October 2019, Census (Return Particulars and Removal of Penalties) Act 2019

On 7 October 2019, the Census (Return Particulars and Removal of Penalties) Bill passed its final stages in the House of Commons. It received Royal Assent on 8 October 2019. The Bill is now an Act of Parliament (law).

The 2019 Act amends the Census Act 1920 to enable new questions on sexual orientation and gender identity to be voluntary in future censuses.

The Census Order is the next step in the legislative process for Census 2021. This will provide for a census to take place in England and Wales and set out the topics that the census will ask questions on.

Read the Census (Return Particulars and Removal of Penalties) Act 2019.

Census Act 1920

The legislative process necessary to carry out a census in England and Wales is governed by the Census Act 1920, as amended by the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007.

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 the 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.

White Paper

Help Shape Our Future: The 2021 Census of Population and Housing in England and Wales

On 14 December, the White Paper outlining the recommendations for the 2021 Census was published on GOV.UK, along with the associated Equality Impact Assessment.

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:

Census order

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.

Census regulations

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.

Find out about census legislation in Scotland.

Find out about census legislation in Northern Ireland.

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 (PDF, 164KB) 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 (PDF, 321KB) is available.

A November 2019 update on progress is available.