Britons to be asked their sexual preference in official survey

December 5th, 2008 - 1:32 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Dec 5 (IANS) The British government now wants to know the sexual preference of its citizens, leaving the Conservatives fuming over the “Big Brotherly” intrusion into privacy.The Office of National Statistics (ONS) will officially collect data on sexual identity of Britons from January 2009.

This is seen as a prelude to including a question on sexual identity in the next census to be held in 2011.

The official explanation for the survey is that the information would be used to assess future needs for housing, healthcare and school places and will help “fulfil legal duties on equality”.

It is not compulsory for individuals to answer the question, but opposition MPs see it as no consolation.

Conservative MP David Davies said: “There’s a real element of Big Brother about this. Taxpayers want their cash spent on doctors, nurses, teachers and policemen, not an army of clipboard-wielding bureaucrats quizzing us about what goes on between the sheets.”

But Karen Dunnell, the national statistician, insisted that most people would be willing to answer questions about their sexuality in confidence.

Officials say privacy of citizens will be honoured when they are asked the question. The question will in fact be printed on a card that will be shown to the citizens who will then be asked to tick their choice.

The card reads: “Which of the options on this card best describes how you think of yourself? Please just read out the number next to the description. Heterosexual/straight, gay/lesbian, bisexual, other.”

Other? This option has been included as some people say the categories do not describe themselves and they would prefer to use another term, Dunnell said.

The ONS said the question was finalised after testing as well as consultation and the data will remain confidential.

But former Tory minister said it is a gross violation of privacy. “I would ask them to mind their own business. This is going completely over the top and is state intrusion of the very worst kind. It just goes to show the level of obsession there is out there with this subject.”

The Daily Mail said the demand that individuals supply intimate personal details to officials comes “at a time of deepening concern about the State’s thirst for ever-greater amounts of private information, and worries over how that information is stored and used”.

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