"increasingly invasive and intrusive... [and] will erode public support, cost more and result in a less accurate survey.
Just because the Government has the legal powers to ask these questions does not give the state the licence to ask anything they want."
So said Nick Hurd, then shadow Cabinet Office spokesman.
That is a very different position to that taken by our new Cabinet Office Minister... Nick Hurd. The man responsible for administering the Census, Glen Watson, confirms that now that the Conservatives are in government, plans for the census are... entirely unchanged. Mr Hurd's urgings about scaling back the census seem to have fallen on his own deaf ears. Francis Maude says that
"The expenses already committed to the census mean any changes are difficult."
I had to check my trusty French dictionary to ensure I didn't misspell fait accompli.
The 2011 Census Mr Hurd so decried, and will now enforce, is 32 pages long (frequently duplicating data already held by the authorities on databases such as the electoral register, school records, tax returns and GP information). It requires you to disclose your proficiency in English, your health, when you last worked, disclosure of the identity of your overnight visitor(s), the kind of central heating you have, and makes the entirely hollow but nevertheless bullying threat of fines of £1,000 for non-compliance.
Last time (in 2001): 390,000 people declared themselves Jedi and 3 million people refused to comply, and as there were fewer than 100 prosecutions, non-compliance comes pretty much entirely without repercussions.
Sounds about right.
**UPDATE** this was discussed yesterday on Radio 4's PM programme - you can listen here.