Page last updated at 15:46 GMT, Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Government urged not to scrap 2021 census

A Conservative peer has spoken out in defence of the census, after the government signalled that it may end censuses after 2011.

The 2011 census will go ahead at a cost of £482m, but the national statistician is currently looking at alternatives and will publish proposals in 2014.

At question time on 15 December 2010, former Commons deputy Speaker Lord Naseby warned that database alternatives to censuses are "notoriously inaccurate".

He asked government spokesman Lord Taylor of Holbeach: "Are you aware of the importance of the consistency of census data over the last 200 years and that it is used by millions of our citizens to trace their ancestry let alone the national government and other organisations who look at the trends?"

"Can we have an assurance that whatever is looked at that at the end of the day we will get a census in 11 years time and the government will not rely on databases which are notoriously inaccurate and particularly when you are trying to establish who lives where?" he continued.

Lord Taylor said that continuity between each census is "very important to understand the changes in society".

"But I cannot give any reassurance because that would pre-empt the outcome of the independent work currently being carried out by the national statistician", he told peers.

He said that a drawback of the current model was that it was out of date by the time the results were published.

"To try and get a dynamic model would produce considerable advantages in the allocation of resources and the ability of government to properly address the issues of the day," he concluded.

Peers also heard questions on the Olympic Truce, China's role in the development of Burma, and the EU bail-out of Ireland.

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