MEP attacks ‘deeply personal’ census

MEPs will vote later today on “intrusive” census questions, which EU statisticians argue will help policymakers respond to people’s needs.

The European Commission has produced a list of questions, which it argues will improve policymaking, covering topics from relationships to washing machines.

Critics complain the questions are overly intrusive and will require women to detail their sexual partners.

The European parliament will vote on the proposals today as it debates whether census data should be standardised across the EU.

UK Independence party (Ukip) MEP Derek Clark said the proposed questions were “crackers” and “deeply offensive”.

Causing particular controversy is a question that asks for the “date(s) of the beginning of consensual union(s) of women having ever been in a consensual union: (ii) first consensual union and (ii) current consensual union”.

Mr Clark said he was “appalled” the EU thinks it has the right to ask women “such deeply personal questions”.

He said the document was the “the work of a group of MEPs who must spend their private time peering over their neighbours’ fences.”

Other questions to be approved by MEPs include computer literacy, the number of cars owned by a household, cooking facilities and ownership of “durable consumer goods”.

The European Commission has argued this will provide it with the better quality data needed to improve policy making.

The Commission states: “The major objective is to give a sufficiently detailed picture of the structure and characteristics of the population that would allow the in-depth analysis required for planning, administration and monitoring in many policy areas.

“Many such policies have a European component, and the institutions of the European Union as well as member states demand reliable comparisons in the European context.”

Mr Clark said: “I’d be incredibly interested to know how a green-fingered couple in possession of a widescreen TV who sleep together will help housing planning, but I’ve no doubt the EU will come up with some lunatic reason how it does.”

He added: “When will politicians realise that George Orwell’s 1984 was a warning, not an instruction manual.”

Despite the controversy, it remains unclear whether “consensual union” refers to a sexual relationship or an unmarried partnership.