Count Them In June 2016

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding the inclusion of questions about the Armed Forces in the 2021 census [and the related 'Count Them In' campaign].

I am aware of calls for the next census to collect information on the Armed Forces community to give the UK and Scottish Governments, local authorities and other providers more detailed information about them in order to better meet their needs.

As you may be aware, Scotland's Census is carried out by the National Records of Scotland (NRS). I understand that the NRS has consulted on topics to ask questions about Scotland's 2021 Census and plans to publish a report in June 2016. I look forward to reading the outcome of this consultation.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) ran a public consultation last year on what topics to include in the questionnaire in England and Wales for the next census. The ONS published its response to this public consultation on 23 May 2016 and concluded that it would not undertake further work for any new census questions on the Armed Forces community and veterans.

The ONS emphasised, however, that the Annual Population Survey now includes questions on military veterans, and the first report with data from this was published on 19 May 2016. This is the first time that a report has quantified and analysed veterans in this way, and I know that the Ministry of Defence has stated that a "major aim" of the report is to "gain a better understanding of the veteran population in England, Scotland and Wales, in order to aid policy development in support of the Armed Forces Covenant".

The ONS has recognised that information on the Armed Forces community is important in decisions regarding service planning, delivery, and the allocation of resources to meet the recommendations in the Armed Forces Covenant. The ONS has therefore announced that it will "investigate the feasibility of linking administrative sources, on armed forces veterans, to data from the 2021 Census to produce the outputs required by users".

I agree that it is crucial to look after the brave men and women in our Armed Forces across the UK, both while they are serving and when they have retired. I pay tribute to them and recognise the sacrifices that they make, and I can assure you that I will continue to follow these matters with interest.

Thank you once again for writing to me and for sharing your views.