HC Deb 02 August 1951 vol 491 cc1613-5
24. Mr. Gammans

asked the Minister of Health if he will specify in detail the purposes for which identity cards are still required.

Mr. Marquand

Identity cards are an essential part of the national registration system, which continues to render valuable services in connection with National Service, security, food rationing, the National Health Service and the administration of other services such as family allowances and post-war credits. The possession of an identity card enables the holder to obtain a new ration book and to withdraw money from the Post Office Savings Bank with the minimum of formality; it simplifies the process of obtaining a passport; it makes it unnecessary to produce a birth certificate in support of a claim for the payment of post-war credits; and it avoids difficulty in establishing identity when applying for dental or other treatment or to be placed on a doctor's list.

Mr. Gammans

Is not food rationing the only service mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman which we did not have before the war? Can he explain why we managed before the war to draw money out of the Post Office Savings Bank and to enjoy most of the other services he mentioned without having identity cards?

Mr. Marquand

Yes, Sir, but there is no doubt that the existence of a National Register greatly facilitates these matters. It makes them easier than they were before the war.

Mr. Mikardo

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the only people who are seriously disadvantaged by the regulations concerning identity cards are those who break the law? Will he resist the blandishments of the Opposition, which are designed to enable him to help such antisocial persons?

Mr. Powell

How does the National Registration card affect the need for a birth certificate in the case of the redemption of post-war credits, since the date of birth is not stated on the card?

Mr. Marquand

I am advised that the quotation of the National Registration number on the application form enables the date of birth to be checked efficiently and economically.

Lieut. -Colonel Lipton

Why are identity cards required by opticians and dentists before spectacles and teeth are provided under National Health Insurance arrangements? What use is made of these registration numbers by the Ministry of Health?

Mr. Marquand

There is, of course, no National Health Insurance in this country. (HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] That is a very common misunderstanding and I like to take every opportunity to correct it. If there were no National Register I should have to invent a register of my own for the National Health Service for the purpose of identifying the persons who use the Health Service.

31. Mr. Wills

asked the Minister of Health whether under his regulations dental and medical practitioners are entitled to demand the production of their patients' national identity cards for the purposes of inserting these particulars on his department's forms.

Mr. Marquand

No, Sir. Patients desiring treatment under the National Health Service are asked to give their National Registration numbers as an additional means of identification and normally do so.

Mr. Wills

In view of this answer, will the Minister reconsider the answer given to me on 5th July and discontinue the practice of compelling doctors and dentists to put identity numbers on all papers submitted to his office? If they have not the right to demand the production of the card, it is very difficult for them to be certain of the accuracy of the numbers they put on the forms.

Mr. Marquand

I agree that it is difficult if patients do not co-operate, but I cannot see any easy remedy for that. It means that a lot of additional administrative work has to be done.

Dr. Hill

As the Health Service is available to every inhabitant in this country, will he explain how it is impossible to continue the service without the use of the identity card?

Mr. Marquand

I do not say that it is impossible, but it is enormously more convenient to have numbers.

Sir H. Williams

Think of a number; will not names do?

Mr. Marquand

Names would not do, but if the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill) had lived in Wales, as I have, he would know that there are thousands of David John Williams, and it is necessary to have numbers, which do no one any harm.

Dr. Hill

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain how they got on in Wales, in the days before the National Health Service, without identity cards?

Mr. Marquand

I am quite certain that they had a great deal of trouble; but they also had numbers then.