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Tuesday, 31 October, 2000, 15:22 GMT
Welsh 'hurt' by census omission
Crowd scene
Campaigners want the "offending" form reprinted
Ministers have been accused of causing "deep hurt" to the people of Wales by failing to include a box for them to tick on next year's census form to indicate they are Welsh.

In a short debate, Plaid Cymru MP for Ceredigion, Simon Thomas, said the results of the census would now be "flawed" because "the question has not been asked in quite the right way".

MP Simon Thomas
MP Simon Thomas: "A deep hurt"
He warned the Government that a census boycott by aggrieved Welsh people had still not been ruled out - despite concessions announced last week, including a 500,000 publicity campaign.

"I don't see this as an ethnic question," said Mr Thomas.

"I see it as a question of national identity.

"There has been deep hurt felt by many in Wales that the Office for National Statistics has seemingly overlooked this aspect of Welsh public life."

He said a tick-box should have been included on the form.

'A mistake'

Instead Welsh people were again left with the impression that "we have to shout all the time in order to get our voice heard", he said.

Rhondda Labour MP Allan Rogers agreed that a mistake had been made but said there were plenty of other opportunities on the census form to express one's Welshness.

The respondent's address and place of birth would both contribute to the figures as would the chance to write Welsh in the "other" box of the section on ethnicity.

For the government, Delyn MP David Hanson accused Mr Thomas of spreading scare stories.

"Simon Thomas has spread so much confusion about the census that there is a real danger that Wales will miss out on scarce resources if peope believe his scare stories and refuse to fill their forms in," he said.

Mr Hanson said every form not filled in would cost Wales 3,000, because the census is used to decide how many people live in Wales and how much government expenditure Wales should get as a result.

He said reprinting the census forms would cost five times the amount of the advertising campaign, and said the planned Labour Force Survey would provide better dater about Welsh ethnicity than a tick box would.

The census form was piloted exclusively in Ceredigion and Gwynedd, which are represented by Plaid Cymru MPs, and neither they nor the Plaid members on local authorities raised any objection at the time, Mr Hanson said.

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See also:

27 Oct 00 | Wales
Census campaign's fiery protest
11 Sep 00 | Wales
Welsh equality row over census
18 Oct 00 | Wales
Census review 'too costly'
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