This day 56 years ago Parliament ended the ID card scheme introduced to the UK in 1939.
It took a brave and clever Judge to kill it off. In June 1951 Lord Goddard ruled against the continuation of ID cards. In a famous judgement he said:
â€œIt is obvious that the police now, as a matter of routine, demand the production of national registration identity cards whenever they stop or interrogate a motorist for whatever cause. Of course, if they are looking for a stolen car or have reason to believe that a particular motorist is engaged in committing a crime, that is one thing, but to demand a national registration identity card from all and sundry, for instance from a lady who may leave her car outside a shop longer than she should, or some such trivial matter of that sort, is wholly unreasonable. This Act was passed for security purposesâ€¦.To use Acts of Parliament, passed for particular purposes during war, in times when the war is pastâ€¦.tends to turn law-abiding subjects into law-breakers, which is a most undesirable state of affairs. Further, in this country we have always prided ourselves on the good feeling that exists between police and the public and such action tends to make people resentful of the acts of the police and inclines them, to obstruct the policeâ€¦â€
When Parliament passed the National registration Act in September 1939 it did so for three reasons.. It did so because it was felt we would need rationing, and some favoured a national system using central registration rather than the local shop based system used in the 1st World War. It needed an up to date census for wartime planning as the 1931 census was very out of date by 1939. The government wanted to plan all manpower and needed information of how many people in what trades and occupations lived where. The registration system was part of a grand planning approach to a wartime economy.
Ministers did not claim that registration cards were crucial to our security. Indeed they took other draconian measures to ensure that. Some Germans and Italians were put in prison. Others were monitored by police. Beaches were covered in barbed wire and anti tank devices. Observation and sentry posts were set up where the government feared invasion and intrusion. Commercial flights and shipping to Germany and the occupied territories of Europe stopped.
Against this background it is bizarre that some today tell us ID cards worked in the war to keep us secure, so why shouldnâ€™t they work in peace? Presumably even this authoritarian government does not think it can round up â€œenemy aliensâ€ as they were called in wartime and put them in prison. Even this government will stop short of physical traps on our beaches, and sentry posts on the streets.
In 1947 Morrison made excellent criticisms of the ID cards. â€œThere are no doubt that they are troublesome documents to some people. They frequently get lost. The dishonest man â€“ the spiv, as he has been called â€“is generally possessed, I am told, of five or six different identity cards which he produces at his pleasure to meet the changing exigencies of his adventurous career. So in the detection and prevention of crime no case can be made out for the identity card.â€
Why canâ€™t this government ditch this hated scheme? The evidence of history shows it is not a good idea, and great socialist luminaries of the past understood the need to protect our freedoms.