The Department of Trade and Industry is to start asking about sexual orientation as part of an attempt to count the number of gay people in Britain.

According to reports in The Economist, people may be asked about their sexuality when they register at a doctors surgery or fill in a crime survey, and a sexuality section may appear on the 2011 census.

However, gay couples were given an opportunity for the first time in the 2001 census to identify themselves as partners, but only about 0.25 per cent did.

Civil partnerships, which came into force in December 2005, are already providing high quality data about the number of same-sex couples who are in committed relationships. The current estimation is that one in 20 people is homosexual, by 2012, statisticians are hoping for an exact figure.