HC Deb 21 February 1952 vol 496 cc414-7
23. Mr. Anthony Barber

asked the Minister of Health whether he will discontinue the use of identity cards.

15. Mr. Martin Lindsay

asked the Minister of Health whether he will make a statement about the discontinuation of identity cards.

Mr. Crookshank

Yes, Sir. Her Majesty's Government have decided that it is no longer necessary to require the public to possess and produce an identity card, or to notify change of address for National Registration purposes though the numbers will continue to be used in connection with the National Health Service. I will, with permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT more details of this decision—as they are a little long—and people should await those details before disposing of their cards.

The following is the statement: Her Majesty's Government have decided that it is no longer necessary to require the public to possess and produce an identity card, or to notify change of address for National Registration purposes. The necessary formal steps to bring the Act of 1939 to an end will be taken as soon as certain transitional arrangements have been completed, but the changes I have already mentioned will come into operation forthwith and no new cards will be issued. This decision does not apply to the special merchant seamen's identity cards issued by the Ministry of Transport, which should be retained. Numbering is necessary in the National Health Service in order to identify patients and avoid inflation of doctor's lists of patients. To save the labour and expense of allotting separate numbers, the series hitherto used for both National Registration and the National Health Service will continue to be used for the latter. Anyone using the Service will be asked, as now, for his number when applying to go on a doctor's list and for dental and ophthalmic treatment. He may have difficulty in getting treated under the Service if he cannot give the number. He should therefore verify that the number is on his medical card. If it is not on the card, he should insert it; if he has no medical card he should apply for one to the local executive council (whose address can be obtained at the Post Office) and in the meantime should keep his identity card as a record of the number. Government Departments will be able to obtain from the records of the Ministry of National Insurance and otherwise much of the information which they have hitherto obtained from the National Register. The effect of the Government's decision is that identity cards cease to have any official value, and the public are warned no longer to accept them as sufficient evidence of identity.
Mr. Shinwell

Can the right hon. Gentleman give an estimate of the economies likely to be gained as a result of the discontinuance of identity cards?

Mr. Crookshank

The result of this action is estimated to save, in staff, about 1,500 people and, in cost, about £500,000.

Mr. Clement Davies

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that his reply will be generally welcomed? Will he consider a refund to Mr. Willcock, who did a very considerable public service in calling attention to these cards and to the fact that they were unnecessary and degrading? Third, will the right hon. Gentleman recommend to his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to follow his good example and try and get rid of passports as well?

Mr. Barber

Will my right hon. Friend agree that this welcome action which he has taken could, in fact, have been taken a long time ago, with the consequent savings to which he has referred?

Mr. Crookshank

Certainly. That was a suggestion which was pressed upon the previous Government.

Mr. H. A. Marquand


Mr. Speaker

Order. I have risen to my feet. I understand from the Minister's answer that a fuller statement is to be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT. Perhaps it would be in the interests of hon. and right hon. Members who have Questions on the Order Paper—

Mr. Shinwell

On a point of order. Apart entirely from the merits of the question, was there any reason why the right hon. Gentleman should make an attack on the late Government without affording my right hon. Friend an opportunity of asking a question about those allegations? May I ask, Sir, what relation there was between the merits of the question and the insinuation of the right hon. Gentleman?

Sir Herbert Williams

Is this a point of order, Sir?

Mr. Speaker

It is not strictly a point or order. The reason why I stopped the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand), was that I had already risen to my feet and I did not like to give way on that occasion. I think it is to the interest of right hon. and hon. Members as a whole that we should pass on and then perhaps return to the question.

Forward to