Are we filling up too fast? On census day, 27 March last year, England and Wales contained 56.1 million people – up by 3.7 million, a shade over 7% in a decade. This is the biggest increase since the census began in 1801, with half a million more than the statisticians expected.
In British political life there are few subjects as touchy as immigration and any undercounting will lead to suspicions that foreigners are silently slipping into the country. The truth appears more prosaic. The Office for National Statistics says 209,000 (45%) of the unexpected difference is because of failings in the 2001 census.