• Robert Spicer

Identity cards existed from 1939 until 1952: what next?

Identity cards

Without going into the details of the current arguments for and against identity cards, which may seem to have reached the level of a sixth-form debate, the historical context may be useful:

The United Kingdom had an identity card system between 1939 and 1952. Under the National Registration Act 1939, a National Register was set up. This contained details of all citizens and National Identity Cards were issued to all persons on the Register. The following information was entered on the Register:

· Names

· Sex

· Age

· Occupation

· Residence

· Marriage status

· Membership of the armed forces.

The Act of 1939 stated that the police had power to require the production of the National Identity Card and created a number of offences.

This law was justified by three reasons:

· The need for central planning in a national emergency.

· The likelihood of rationing being introduced.

· The need for detailed statistics about the population.

The Act was introduced without any real scrutiny by Parliament. It gave very wide powers to the police, which did not cease at the end of the war. Identity cards were not abolished until 1952.

Aneurin Bevan was reported to have commented that he believed that the requirement of an internal passport was more objectionable than an external passport, and that citizens ought to be allowed to move about freely without running the risk of being accosted by a policeman or anyone else, and asked to produce proof of identity.

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