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BBC Wales' Catrin Evans
"The omission was an insult"
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BBC Wales's Guto Thomas
"The lack of a tick box indicating Welsh identity on the form has been arousing strong sentiments"
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Wednesday, 6 December, 2000, 09:12 GMT
Assembly's census row demand
National Assembly for Wales
Plaid Cymru called for support from all AMs
Assembly Members have voted unanimously to call for a Welsh "tick box" to be included on the 2001 census forms for Wales.

There has been a long-running row over the issue because people in scotland are being offered a box to tick to register themselves as "Scottish", while in Wales, people are offered only either "British" or "Irish".

The Office for National Statistics has refused to change the forms despite the outcry in Wales. It says it would be too costly to reprint them now.

However, the Assembly has now passed a motion calling for the Welsh tick box to be included.

The Plaid Cymru motion was amended by the Assembly's Labour and Lib Dem partnertship administration to include a call urging people to complete the forms.

There had been calls for a boycott of the census in protest at the alleged "insult" of the lack of a Welsh tick box.

Nick Bourne AM
Nick Bourne: "Morgan has failed"
But the amendment warned that funding for vital services could be at risk if the census showed a smaller number of people in Wales than was really the case.

It was the first time AMs have voted on the issue and Plaid Cymru hoped to send a strong message from the Assembly to the Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

The lack of a tick box indicating Welsh national identity on the Census form has for months now been arousing strong sentiments across otherwise deep political divides.

"If the people of Wales, through their elected representatives, feel angry enough about this issue then it is not too late to make the change even at this late stage," said Plaid Cymru's leader Ieuan Wyn Jones.

The Welsh Conservatives supported Plaid Cymru in the debate, arguing that the existing forms should be over-printed and the software upgraded.

Strong objections

Their leader, Nick Bourne, has said that Labour's refusal to do this was unacceptable.

He said it was a litmus test for standing up to Westminster and that First Minister Rhodri Morgan had failed to do so.

A spokesman for the Liberal Democrats said they supported the spirit of the Plaid Cymru argument but stood with the case made by Labour - that it was too late to change and that no party should condone civil disobedience.

Despite strong objections to the lack of a tick-box, everyone, Labour said, should fill in the forms when they arrive through the letterbox next April.

The tick box in Scotland was added at the request of the Scottish parliament, which has authority over the census in Scotland.

But London controls the census for Wales, and the Assembly can only ask Westminster to change the forms. It has no power to do so itself.

When told of the Assembly's vote, a Downing Street spokesman repeated the government's position that it was too late to change the forms and that they should be filled in as they are.

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See also:

30 Oct 00 | Wales
Welsh 'hurt' by census omission
27 Oct 00 | Wales
Census campaign's fiery protest
11 Sep 00 | Wales
Plaid want census form changes
18 Oct 00 | Wales
Census review 'too costly'
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