People answering questionnaires about their employment status, their living costs and how much they drink or smoke will also be asked whether they are heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual. The enigmatic category "other" is also being included to cater for the "very small" number of people who say they do not fit into the first three groups. Future studies could also ask Britons if they have had sex swaps or are "undergoing the process of gender reassignment".
The Office for National Statistics, the organisation that collates data for use by Government, says the new questions are essential to meet equality laws and to find out if people from minority groups are discriminated against.
The question will be part of ONS's frequent population and economic surveys. No word yet on whether such questions will be used in the 2011 UK census, though the matter has been debated. Like the 2000 US census, the 2001 UK census gave only a limited picture of the LGB population, via numbers of same-sex couple households.