The Office for National Statistics has responsibility for the Census in England and Wales. However, in order to give the National Assembly for Wales a more formal role, a Transfer of Functions Order was agreed in 2006.

First published:
13 June 2019
Last updated:

Transfer of Functions Order (TFO)

In the light of the strength of feeling expressed in Wales on the matter of recording Welsh identity in the 2001 Census of Population, it was agreed that the National Assembly for Wales should have a more formal role in agreeing future census forms in Wales. To give effect to that agreement, the National Assembly for Wales (Transfer of Functions) (No.2) Order 2006 includes provisions giving the Assembly:

  • a right in law to be consulted on the making of the Census Order
  • the power to make regulations for administrating the Census in Wales.

The Transfer of Functions Order (TFO) was made by Her Majesty in Council on 14 December 2006, and came into force on 15 December 2006 (having been through the requisite procedures in Plenary and in both Houses of Parliament).

Under the Government of Wales Act 2006 these functions transferred to Welsh Ministers in May 2007.

White Paper

The 2021 Census White Paper, Help Shape Our Future: The 2021 Census of Population and Housing in England and Wales, announcing the UK Statistics Authority's proposals for the 2021 Census in England and Wales, was laid before the National Assembly for Wales on 14 December 2018 by the First Minister.

The White Paper sets out the strategic aims for the census, explains the need for it, sets out the content and how it will be conducted, and deals with matters of public interest such as data security and confidentiality. The White Paper also sets out the UK Statistics Authority’s proposals for the future of population statistics after 2021.

It is proposed that, subject to UK Parliamentary approval, the next census of population should be taken in England and Wales on 21 March 2021.

The White Paper sets out the recommendations by the UK Statistics Authority for the content and conduct for the 2021 Census. Following user engagement, they are recommending the same content as the 2011 Census with the following exceptions:

New questions on:

  • sexual orientation
  • gender identity
  • past service in the UK Armed Forces.

Drop questions on:

  • year in which respondent last worked
  • number of rooms in the household, on the basis that both have alternative sources.

Additional ‘tick box’ for Roma in the ethnicity question.

The UK Statistics Authority is also recommending a predominantly online census, with a wide range of assistance to the public. However, they also recognise that not everyone will be able to, or want to fill in the Census online so they have set out their intention that paper forms will be made easily available.

The UK Statistics Authority plans to hold a census rehearsal in areas of England and Wales in October 2019.

Census (Return Particulars and Removal of Penalties) Bill

The Census (Return Particulars and Removal of Penalties) Bill was introduced in the House of Lords on 1 May 2019.

The Bill will amend the Census Act 1920 and the Census Act (Northern Ireland) 1969 to remove the penalty for not responding to new census questions on sexual orientation and gender identity.

This means that the 2021 Census in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland, may include questions on sexual orientation and gender identity, which can be answered on a voluntary basis.

This Bill delivers on the proposals set out in the December 2018 White Paper, Help Shape our Future: The 2021 Census of Population and Housing in England and Wales, which sets out the UK Statistics Authority’s recommendations that these new questions be included in the 2021 Census in England and Wales, on a voluntary basis.

The Minister for Finance and Trefnydd laid a legislative consent memorandum for the Census (Return Particulars and Removal of Penalties) Bill in the National Assembly for Wales on 15 May 2019. This is because the Bill makes provision in relation to Wales for any purpose within the legislative competence of the National Assembly.

Census Order

The Census (England and Wales) Order 2009 sets out who needs to complete a census and the information to be to be collected. Welsh Ministers were formally consulted on the Census Order. The Order was approved by both the House of Lords and the House of Commons and was made by the Privy Council on 9 December 2009.

Census Regulations

The Census (Wales) Regulations 2010 set out the operational procedures and arrangements necessary to conduct the 2011 Census. The Regulations also include copies of the 2011 Census questionnaires.

The Minister for Business and Budget made the Census (Wales) Regulations on 24 April 2010. They came into force on 16 June 2010. This was the first time that Welsh Ministers made separate Census Regulations for Wales.