Susan Elan Jones MP has welcomed the news that the next Census will include a question about members of the armed forces and military veterans.
The Clwyd South Labour MP has made repeated representations to the Government on this subject. She has questioned Defence Ministers in the House of Commons Chamber – and last week received confirmation from Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood MP that the Government would support the proposal.
Susan Elan Jones MP said: “I am a great admirer of the work of the Royal British Legion, and have been very pleased to do what I can in Parliament to support their excellent Count Them In campaign for a designated Census question. It is good that we finally have official backing for a practical measure to help veterans.”
Speaking recently in support of a Labour motion calling for improved pay and conditions for armed forces personnel, the Clwyd South MP said:
“One thing that moves me greatly is meeting the families of military personnel—both former and present—and hearing the issues that they raise. One such issue is below-inflation pay settlements, but there are other issues relating to accommodation and how the rises in costs are not met by those pay settlements.
Mention was made about the credit unions (for armed forces personnel), which were an excellent initiative. Let us not forget that those unions were set up because research showed that 20,000 military personnel—and former military personnel—were relying on payday loans. That is the reality of the situation. I pay tribute to the Government, as they listened to the Royal British Legion on its campaign.
I wish to use this debate today in the hope that they will listen to the Royal British Legion on another campaign—the “count them in” campaign. In that campaign, the Royal British Legion is asking for a designated question or questions in the census so that more information can be provided on who our military and former military personnel are, so that they can be better served in our communities.
I hope that Ministers will welcome the fact that the Office for National Statistics made a very positive report on this subject. It said:
“Our understanding of the user need for information on those who have served, and now left, the UK armed forces has grown.”
The ONS has noted that linked data only partially meets the users’ needs. We now know also that 88% of people surveyed by the ONS think that it is acceptable to ask these designated questions. The ONS further comments:
“Based on the testing so far, the ONS have concluded that it will be possible to finalise a question that works and is broadly acceptable.”
I really hope that, at this time of year and before the next census is prepared, our Government honour the campaign of the Royal British Legion; honour what is being requested by many military families around our country; listen to the very thoughtful words of the ONS; and fully support the “count them in” campaign so that we as a country can better serve those people who have served and are serving us.”