UK Census will fail if too many people refuse to fill in the forms, says Straight Statistics

Written by Web News Editor on . Posted in News

In an article that cites the letter from RSS vice president Jill Leyland to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Straight Statistics has suggested that concerns about the confidentiality of personal information could undermine the census.
 
“If too many people refuse to fill in the forms … the census will fail,” comments Straight Statistics’ Nigel Hawkes.
 
Leyland’s letter to ONS Director General Stephen Penneck sought an explanation of how the ONS would handle requests for census information from the police or the security services. She drew attention to a clause in the 2007 Statistics and Registration Service Act that has the potential to “oblige the ONS under certain circumstances to hand over individual data for non-statistical purposes to the police or security services.”
 
Hawkes’ article highlights the international trend to abandon long-form census data gathering as privacy campaigners grow ever-more vocal. “But by sticking to a mandatory long-form census while other nations are abandoning it, the UK is out on a limb,” it says.
 
While in opposition, MP Francis Maude questioned the intrusion on personal privacy posed by the census. However, as the minister now responsible, Maude has given approval the census process.
 
In a parallel development, four former senior civil servants in Canada have written to PM Stephen Harper seeking changes to the country’s Statistics Act. The group, which includes former chief statistician and RSS honorary fellow Ivan Fellegi, want legal safeguards to ensure that changes to the census are controlled by Statistics Canada rather than the government.
 
Earlier this year, the Canadian government abolished the long-form census and replaced it with a voluntary survey. In the debacle that followed chief statistician Munir Sheikh resigned, saying the data provided by the survey would not be of comparable quality to that gathered by mandatory census.
 

Jill Leyland Office for National Statistics (ONS) Census

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