COMMONS

The Census and social science

15 March 2013

The Science and Technology Select Committee has, today, published responses from the Government and ESRC to its report on the census and social science.

The report, published last September, highlighted a lack of Government focus on the data that underpins its spending on health, welfare and infrastructure. The Committee recommended that the Government give a cabinet Minister responsibility for championing social science in Cabinet discussions and expressed concern that Government plans to scrap the census would not save money as the proper infrastructure was not in place. In the absence of savings, the loss of decadal snapshots of the UK, the loss of a ready recruitment aid to academic longitudinal studies and to local historians and genealogists could not be justified.

Despite having taken over three times longer than Government takes to respond to such reports there are no signs that the Government have used that time to make any decisions.

The Government and ESRC responses accepted many of the principles highlighted in the report but avoided making any decisions based on the key recommendations.

The census has been carried out every ten years almost uninterrupted since 1801. The Government have stated that the 2011 census would be the last of its kind. There is a consultation process that will continue until 2014.

Chair's Comments

Andrew Miller, Chair of the Committee said:

"I can only presume that the Government wants to wait until the ONS has completed its consultation into the future of the census.  What doesn't make sense is to wait this long then respond without giving any insight into the current thinking. 

My Committee may have been content with this response last December but the lack of any sign that Government thinking has advanced in all that time is of concern. 

We will seek to have a Minister come and provide us with that insight after the consultation has concluded."

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