Monday, 15 April 2019

An update on census meeting with the ONS

On Friday 12th April, I attended a meeting with two representatives of the Office of National Statistics (ONS), which included the Director of Population and Public Policy Operations. The purpose of the gathering was to discuss the need for a Cornish tick-box in the national identity section of the 2021 census.

The meeting itself took place in St Austell and was organised by Steve Double MP. He was present along with a representative from the office of Scott Mann MP. Also there from Cornwall Council were an officer, the Deputy Leader Cllr Julian German (Independent), Cllr Jesse Foot (Liberal Democrat) and Cllr Jordan Rowse (Conservative).

It would be a massive understatement on our part to describe the meeting as very frustrating as we challenged the ONS on a range of points.

We set out our great disappointment that the ONS had not supported a Cornish tick-box, even though the resultant Government White Paper stated that they fully recognised the “need of the Cornish community for data on the socio-economic, educational, health and housing conditions of those who identify as Cornish.”

We reminded the ONS that the Cornish had been recognised as a “national minority,” the UK Government has promised that the Cornish would be afforded the “same status … as the UK’s other Celtic people, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish,” and that it was therefore illogical that the Cornish would be the only UK national minority to be denied a tick-box.

Of course, it was noted that Cornish people could “write-in” their national identity, but we countered with the obvious retort that data collected in such manner would result in a massive undercount in the number of Cornish people across the UK, and there would rightly be significant doubts about the veracity of the data that was collected.

However, whatever we said, it was clear from the meeting that the ONS will not be revisiting their position and a statutory order will be laid before both Houses of Parliament towards the end of this year.

Very importantly, this represents an opportunity for the UK Government and MPs to modify what will be included within the census.

I have already written to the interim Minister for the Constitution Kevin Foster, who has taken the place of Chloe Smith who is on maternity leave, and requested that he take the lead in bringing forward a proposal for a Cornish tick-box on the next census.

It would be great if others could also write to him and their local MPs on this matter. Mr Foster’s address is c/o Cabinet Office, 70 Whitehall, London SW1A 2AS.

[This is my article in this week's Cornish Guardian].

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