This is the text of a 1950(?) memorandum from the General Register Office on the continuation, or otherwise, of the system of National Registration and identity cards which had been established at the outbreak of war in 1939 (National Archives reference RG 28/300). Since that time the system had accumulated a number of uses outside its original statutory purposes of conscription, food rationing, and national security; the memorandum addresses in particular whether the money saved by using National Registration in this way justified its expense. The final section (paragraphs 32 and 33) addresses the argument that, "National Registration is too totalitarian an instrument for a democratic government to retain in time of peace".
The text is © Crown Copyright and is reproduced here under the waiver of Crown Copyright in Public Records; as such you may further reproduce it if you wish. Bizarrely, the waiver does not apply to any scanned copy of the original document, so I cannot supply that. Many thanks to Dr. Jon Agar for providing a photocopy.
In a unique arrangement, the additional tax paid as a result of the lowering of personal allowances was recorded and credited to the taxpayer. It was repaid — to those who had kept their post-war credit certificates — by 1973.
The unit of clerical work is, of course, the clerk, employed (I infer from the text) at £200/year, or thereabouts. In paragraph 9, another species, "search officers", is mentioned; they seem a little cheaper.
It's probably safe to assume that any typos in the following are my own doing; if you notice any particularly egregious ones, please drop me a line so that I can fix them. There are a couple of redactions, and I have made some annotations where the original text is unclear.
I have tried to format this into reasonably modern HTML while keeping some of the feel of the original typewritten document; inevitably the result neither very closely resembles the original, nor is it very good HTML. Sorry.
— Chris Lightfoot, 23rd November 2005
(Note. The object of this memorandum is simply to help towards a clarification of the issues within the G.R.O. It implies no policy and is not for disclosure outside the office.)
I. The first question to be considered is whether National Registration has now justified itself as a permanent element of our national administration, or should now be closed down. (A subsidiary question is, supposing it were decided to "close down", just what does "closing down" mean? Should we keep any of the existing records, and if so, which, and what use should be made of them? This will form the subject of a separate study.)
The argument for closing down is that—
(1) such of the existing functions of National Registration as can be performed otherwise could be performed at a total cost less than the total cost of National Registration;
(2) the loss of the remaining functions would be more than repaid by the saving in money and man-power; and
(3) even if the argument at (1) and (2) is fairly evenly balanced, National Registration is too totalitarian an instrument for a democratic government to retain in time of peace.
II. The second question to be considered is whether National Registration should or can survive the end of food rationing. This question resolves itself into the question whether, after food rationing goes, it would be (a) practicable (b) worth while to maintain
(1) a "live" register as at present;
(2) a "static" register containing a record of every person in the country (other than short-term visitors as at present) but recording only their initial particulars and date and mode of exit from National Registration, with such changes of name as may be reported; or
(3) a "voluntary" register recording only births in this country and such immigrants as choose to register here, and issuing identity cards only to such persons as desire them.
These questions will be examined in this memorandum as follows:—
1. The present total net cost of National Registration to the United Kingdom Government is estimated at £800,000, of which £227,000 is directly spent on the staff of the three Central N.R. Offices and the Headquarter staff in London and special payments to Registrars and some £93,000 is attributable to the cost of premises and stationery, while the remaining £500,000 (less than [the?] £30,000 income from fees for replacing lost Identity Cards) is our estimate of the proportionate cost of the staff of local National Registration/Food Offices. (The Ministry of Food estimate this latter total at £750,000, which would bring the total cost of National Registration up to just over £1,000,000. The exact figure cannot be more precisely determined because so many of the local staffs do both National Registration and Food work and the proportion varies from season to season).
2. Supposing National Registration did not exist, what would be the cost of maintaining such of its functions as could be performed otherwise? At first sight it should be possible to list (1) those functions which could be performed without National Registration, and (2) those which cannot; and then to estimate the cost of (1) and the value of (2). The problem, however, turns out not to be as simple as that, because most if not all of the functions in category (1) could not be performed so efficiently by means other than National Registration, and there is hardly any function performed by National Registration which could not be to some extent replaced by some other more or less expensive and more or less unsatisfactory substitute. However, the functions of National Registration can broadly be divided between the two categories, even though the distinction is rather of degree than of kind.
3. (i) Notification of deaths. This service could be supplied to Executive Councils by registrars, but they would need either to receive an ad hoc fee (at least in the case of fee-paid officers) or to have their assessments of extent of service increased. On the analogy of National Registration, the fee might be 3d. for recovery of medical card, 2d. for notification of death with particulars of doctor, 1½d. for mere notification of death. On this basis the total extra cost would be £4,500 per annum. Executive Councils would be put to extra work in sending on notifications where the home address of the deceased was in the area of a different Council, and this might bring the total cost up to £5,000.
4. (ii) Notification of enlistments. The Services would need to write out a notification slip in respect of each man and send these to some central point (presumably Ministry of Health) for distribution to Executive Councils. The cost of handling some 750 a day would be in the region of £1,500. The total cost, including printing accommodation, might be in the region of £4,500.
5. (iii) Notification of embarkations. The only way of securing a notification service comparable to the present would be for Immigration Officers to obtain from every passenger leaving the country for more than (say) three months either his medical card or a statement of his name, age, address, and doctor. This would involve so much inconvenience to the travelling public and such a big increase in the complement of Immigration Officers that it can be ruled out as impracticable. It seems unlikely that the Ministry of Health could, even by intensive propaganda, persuade more than a small proportion of the travelling public to take their medical cards with them when going abroad. There would therefore be a cumulative inflation of the numbers on doctors' lists. Supposing that of the 375,000 persons annually reported to C.N.R.O. as embarking for 3 months or more only 100,000 fail to return after a few years (the real figure may well be more like 200,000) the inflation would in ten years time reach 2½% of the population and would either necessitate an increase, or prevent an otherwise necessary decrease, of £1,000,000 in the total amount available for distribution to doctors. The only way to prevent such inflation (a central index could not of itself prevent it) would be that Executive Councils should periodically send a letter to everyone in their records asking them whether they are still in the United Kingdom, followed by a further letter to those who do not reply intimating that their names have been removed from their Doctor's list. The cost of such an operation (assuming that the Ministry of Health were prepared to face its unpopularity) would be in the region of £200,000. On the assumption that the Ministry of Health carried out this purging exercise every five years, the average annual loss to the Exchequer over the next 12 years would be in the region of £40,000. If on the other hand they simply allow the inflation to pile up, the average annual loss spread over the next 25 years would be £800,000. It cannot however be affirmed that such a loss would actually be incurred: the Ministry of Health might simply decide to abate by (say) £100,000 a year the total available for distribution, with a consequent injustice as between doctors but no net loss to the Exchequer.
6. (iv) Central Index. It is probably that sooner or later the Ministry of Health will be driven to the view that a central index is necessary to control inflation of Executive Councils' records. If National Registration were no longer in existence when the time came to set up such an index its establishment would be much more costly because it would involve the sorting of some 40,000,000 cards into alphabetical order in separate premises instead of merely noting the Executive Council cipher against each entry in the Transcript Book at C.N.R.O. Moreover such an index could not eliminate by any means all of the existing inflation because the scanty amount of information on the old entry cards in Executive Council indexes would be insufficient to link them with duplicate records recently made on forms E.C.1. And in the absence of a universal numbering system it would bee impossible to prevent a person already in the central index from having a duplicate card inserted in it if he failed to disclose, on removal to a new Executive Council area, that he had already been in the National Health Service. This inefficiency represents a loss to the Exchequer in the sense that a central index based on National Registration would effect a much greater saving; but no figure is quoted here for that loss because (a) it is impossible to measure and (b) the Exchequer is already losing that money now. It is, however, fair to mention here that the continuing cost of maintaining a central index without National Registration would be much greater than if the central index were based on the C.N.R.O records. An index of the latter type could be maintained at about 26 clerks per annum additional to the C.N.R.O. overheads, whereas a separate index would cost probably twice as much in staff, apart from the cost of the premises and stationery. There would therefore be a net additional cost to the Exchequer of something of the order of £6,000.
6A. (v) Numbering System. As stated in paragraph 20(iii) below, the Ministry of Health might well decide, if National Registration disappeared, that Executive Councils should write to everyone on their records asking them to state their National Insurance Number, if any, and allot a new number to the remainder (except perhaps children born in Great Britain since 29th September 1939, who would retain the National Registration Number which would always be reconstructed from the birth entry). This would be a big undertaking, but once done would not involve any appreciable recurrent expenditure.
7. At present some 60,000 deaths are being notified annually by National Registration Officers to Electoral Registration Officers. These notifications could equally well be made by registrars, but that would involve a financial adjustment; if this took the form of a revival of the pre-war fee of 2d. per notification, a continuance of this service would cost the Exchequer £500.
8. This could be kept anywhere — e.g. at the Home Office —, but probably not quite so economically as at present under the skilled staff of C.N.R.O. The cost would be about £1,800. The Services would post a discharge or release notification to this Register instead of handing the man a form to enable him to get on the National Register; this would probably not involve any change in cost. (A register disjoined from National Registration would not be so effective in keeping down inflation in the electoral registers, as will be pointed out under heading (2) below.)
9. About 2 clerks are employed at C.N.R.O. on verification of ages for family allowance purposes. It would take some 12 search officers etc. to do the same work at G.R.O. Extra cost, £2,000.
10. The necessity for compliance with National Registration requirements leads occasionally to the exposure of a fictitious registration of birth, but there is no evidence that fictitious births are being registered in order to secure family allowances; it is therefore hardly possible to predict any loss to the Exchequer under this head if National Registration disappeared.
11. C.N.R.O. are at present verifying annually 25% of applications from old people for payment of post-war credits. These verifications are made and returned to the Inland Revenue on the day of receipt. To do this work at G.R.O. would (a) occupy more staff (b) take several days longer (c) involve the Inland Revenue in getting additional particulars from applicants to enable their birth entries to be verified and (d) put the inland Revenue to the trouble of copying these extra particulars on to verification cards. Therefore if National Registration ceased, Inland Revenue would probably verify no cases before award, but would subsequently in a smaller proportion of cases ask the applicant to produce a birth certificate or particulars sufficient to trace his birth. This might add £1,000 to the cost at G.R.O. of producing birth certificates or varying ages.
12. There would, however, be a further loss to public funds. At present a fair proportion of the claimants tested at C.N.R.O. turn out to be under age, and, assuming that in these cases the average amount of credit due is the same as for the genuine claimants, this means that £450,000 annually is retained by the Exchequer which would otherwise be paid out in payment of post-war credits. The small amount of post-award verification which would be practicable under paragraph 11 would not reduce this by more than £100,000. It cannot of course be claimed that the remaining £350,000 would be annually lost to the Exchequer, because most of it would eventually fall due for payment when the claimant reached the due age; but some of it might never be payable at all because the claimant before reaching the due age had died without leaving eligible next of kin, and much of it would not be payable for a number of years hence. Exactly what this would represent when converted into an annual loss to the Exchequer is difficult to calculate exactly, but it might be estimated as the equivalent of £50,000 per annum until there is a general repayment of post-war credits.
13. It is not easy to measure in terms of money the service rendered by the national registration system to the Post Office Savings Bank, and the Director of Savings refuses to commit himself to any figure (letter of 7th April 1949 in NR/PO/1). I seem to remember, however, that in 1945, in defence of the continuance after the war of D.R.6000, the General Post Office estimated that if the identity card could not be used to check applications for opening of new accounts and withdrawal of money, extra safeguards requiring 30 additional clerks would be needed to give the same degree of security. Alternatively, the number of frauds would increase considerably. Therefore it may be estimated that if National Registration ceased the Exchequer would lose at least £6,000 annually.
14. If National Registration ceased, the G.R.O. could at a cost of about 1½ clerks extract the necessary information relating to infants dying under 1 year to enable the present service of linkage with forms 309 to be rendered to the Medical Research Council. Annual cost, £400.
15. If National Registration ceased, the Ministry of Labour and National Service would not be entirely without resources to enforce national service obligations. They would probably find it necessary to use their powers under S 29 of the National Service Act 1948 to get all schools and colleges to furnish
(a) a notice of every boy leaving school before age 18 and
(b) an annual return of all male persons between the age of 17 and 18 receiving education.
These would be sorted to yearly age-groups by alphabetical order, distinguishing boys of the same name by their dates of birth. Registrars of births and deaths would notify deaths of all males dying between the ages of 15 and 19. Registrations for National Service would be sorted into alphabetical order and run against the appropriate index, and the remainder would be pursued by the Ministry of Labour and Police in the usual way, but without the assistance of the national register in providing up-to-date addresses. Possible more recent addresses could be obtained from Ministry of National Insurance, but many of those evading National Service would probably be evading National Insurance also. The extra work involved in such a scheme (which would not be nearly so effective as the present link-up with the national register*) is impossible to estimate with anything like exactness, but would probably require some 15 clerks a year more than are at present employed by the Ministry of Labour on this work, i.e. an annual extra charge of £3,000.
* The first indexes would take 3 years to build up; some schools would send in no returns, others would be incomplete; addresses would not be up-to-date.
16. The Ministry of Food would need to establish a distributing centre for forms R.12a notifying enlistments and removal from one rationing area to another. This occupies 7 clerks at C.N.R.O. but Ministry of Food, not being so skilled at sorting work, would probably require rather more. Cost say £2,000.
17. At present the link between National Registration and rationing makes it difficult for anyone to obtain more than one ration book, or if he does, to exchange both books at the annual reissue. If National Registration ceased, the Ministry of Food would have to devise some substitute. This would perhaps consist of (a) entering date of birth (from National Registration records) on to every reference leaf, (b) checking the old reference leaves against the new after every re-issue, (c) copying date of birth from old to new reference leaves after every re-issue. Date of birth would be asked for at every request for replacement of lost ration book and perhaps at every request for a new book at the annual re-issue. It is not easy to say how much of the above the Ministry of Food would decide to put into operation, or whether they would adopt some alternative plan (e.g. using the old National Registration Maintenance Registers, re-sorted into alphabetical order, as a permanent check register). But whatever method was adopted, the disappearance of National Registration would undoubtedly entail extra work at local food offices for the prevention of duplication; the extra cost of such arrangements might well exceed £100,000 per annum.
18. Summary. The extra charges on the Exchequer which seem likely to arise as a result of the cessation of National Registration are as follows:—
|£ per annum|
|(a) National Health Service|
|(i) Notification of deaths||5,000|
|(ii) Notification of enlistments||4,500|
|(iii) Embarkation||? 40,000|
|(iv) Central index||6,000|
|(b) Electoral Registration|
|(i) Notification of deaths||500|
|(ii) Service voters||1,800|
|(c) Family allowance age verifications||2,000|
|(d) Post-war credits|
|(i) Extra work||1,000|
|(ii) Premature repayments||? 50,000|
|(e) Post Office Savings Bank||6,000|
|(f) Medical Research Council||400|
|(g) National Service||3,000|
|(h) Food rationing|
|(i) Removal notifications||2,000|
|(ii) Prevention of duplication||100,000|
|Total annual cost||222,200|
|or, assuming that Ministry of Health simply make compensating deductions for the embarkation inflation, and that Ministry of Food make no effort to prevent duplication of ration books accumulating||81,700|
All the above figures should be increased by about 10% to include Scotland and Northern Ireland. There should also be added a capital sum of perhaps £50,000 followed by an annual £500 which would need to be spent on preparations for the compilation of another National Register in the event of another war.
19. In many respects, however, the services rendered by National Registration either could not be rendered at all, or could not be rendered so efficiently, if National Registration disappeared.
20. The following jobs could be done less efficiently.
(i) Notification of deaths and enlistments to Executive Councils. (Without the National Registration Number it is more difficult to identify the person in the Executive Council's records; and if the Executive Council for area of last residence has no record, the notification cannot be sent on to the Executive Council in whose area the deceased previously resided, as can be done at present from inspection of the identity card or from National Registration records.)
(ii) Construction of central National Health Service index. (Existing inflation could be only partly eliminated, and future inflation only partly prevented, for the reasons given in paragraph 6 above.)
(iii) National Health Service numbering system. (Executive Councils would at least have to start a supplementary numbering system for all new entrants into National Health Service and all existing patients whose National Registration Number was not known. Even with a central index this would give rise to further inflation because people would forget their numbers on registering with a fresh doctor and be alloted a new number as if they had not previously been in the service. To obviate this (in part) the Ministry of Health would rather face the colossal operation of turning over to National Insurance numbers all patients who possess one.)
(iv) Register of service voters. (There would be some inflation of the electoral registers through failure to pick out all releases and discharges from the services and absence of check on return of Crown servants and their wives from abroad. This is at present fully guarded against by link with National Registration.)
(v) National service. (At present no one can evade national service unless he also deprives himself of all the benefits that accrue from keeping his address up-to-date in the National Registration records — the principal such benefit being entitlement to a ration book. If National Registration ceased and the scheme described in paragraph 15 were substituted, anyone could still evade national service by simply disconnecting himself from the address he had when he left school. This would certainly mean several thousand less conscripts in the Services each year, and as soon as the public got wise to this way of escape the figure might run into tens of thousands. Much would depend on how far parents co-operated in helping the authorities to trace their children working away from home.)
(vi) Ministry of Food. In paragraph 17 above a description is given of some of the alternative methods which Ministry of Food would probably be driven to adopt in order to keep down duplication of ration books. Probably, however, no such method would be as successful as the link with National Registration in keeping down duplication. (a) Take, for instance, the person who finds or steals someone else's ration book. At present he cannot get this renewed at the annual re-issue because he cannot produce an identity card in support of it. But if National Registration ceased, he could get the book renewed annually unless (which is unlikely) Ministry of Food put themselves and the public to the trouble of asking for a date of birth statement at the re-issue and checking this in after years against the reference leaf index before issuing the new book. (This check could not be done the first year because reference leaves of adults contain no date of birth at present.) Otherwise the case would not come to light unless the duplication of names was noticed in the new reference leaf index; but the defrauder could avoid this by altering the name on the surrendered book; and even if he did not do this it would be impossible for the Food Office to find the culprit except by elaborate detective arrangements fixed up between the Food Enforcement Officer and one of the retailers concerned. (b) Or again, take the case of the person who falsely says he has lost his ration book. At present he cannot renew both books at the re-issue because his identity card will be stamped in respect of one book only; but if National Registration ceased there would be nothing to prevent him from renewing the book and there would be a fair chance of the fraud remaining undetected or at least of the Food Enforcement Officer being put to much trouble. (Evasion here would not be quite so easy as in the previous type of case.) (c) A third type of case is that of the man who goes abroad leaving his ration book behind with a relative. At present if he surrenders his identity card or fills up an embarkation card at the port of embarkation, C.N.R.O. inform the local office of his departure, and many such offices take steps to ensure that the ration book is not renewed at the next re-issue. This would not be possible if National Registration ceased.
(vii) Verification of ages for Inland Revenue. As stated in paragraphs 11 and 12 above it would be impossible for the Inland Revenue without National Registration to get so efficient a system of verification of ages in connexion with payment of post-war credits. They would probably verify no cases before award, and might miss some of the flagrant cases which the present procedure has thrown up and which have led to prosecutions.
21. Other services would just not be rendered at all. These chiefly consist (as indeed part of the service rendered to the Ministry of Labour consists) in the ability of National Registration to report the address of, or send a letter to, any person whom the authorities desire to find. The main classes of such persons are:—
(i) Criminals or escaped mental patients wanted by the police. (C.N.R.O. deal with 1,500 such enquiries a year, and many more are dealt with by local National Registration offices. Some of these criminals would be caught sooner or later by the long arm of the law; others could be caught if there were sufficient extra police — but police recruits are difficult to get, so it has not been thought advisable to attempt the impossible task of estimating the additional extra cost under heading (1) above. For other assistance rendered by National Registration to the police see paragraph 22 below.)
(ii) [3 lines redacted]
(iii) Royal Air Force and Army reservists who would be required for service in a war emergency. (Some of these could, rather laboriously, be found by Ministry of National Insurance; but ministry of National Insurance could not efficiently notify changes of address, as they do not ordinarily hear of changes oftener than once a year at the most; nor would Ministry of National Insurance like to take on a service of this kind as it would interfere with the speed of their day-to-day work.)
(iv) The same considerations apply to the much smaller number of former employees in the Postal Censorship Department whose addresses were supplied to the Home Office, and to any other types of war service for which similar facilities may be desired.
(v) People to whom Ministry of National Insurance and other Departments owed benefits from public funds. About 2,700 such people are found each year, out of about 3,200 whom we are asked to trace.
(vi) Other people wanted for their advantage by relatives, solicitors, [something lost at bottom of page?]
(vii) Cancer and T.B. patients whom it is desired to follow up for research purposes. About 3,500 people are found each year out of about 4,000 whom we are asked to trace.
22. Other irreplaceable services rendered by National Registration are as follows:—
(i) To the Police. The demand for production of an identity card provides the police with a first-class means of checking the account given of himself by any person whom they may be interviewing. Inspection of the various symbols on the identity card tells the experienced policeman many things about the suspect's personal history which may conflict with his story. Alternatively if he fails to produce the card or has altered the card to conceal the truth, he can be prosecuted under the National Registration Act, and this often results in a bad character getting a punishment he deserves even if there is insufficient evidence to charge him for the primary offence for the sake of which the National Registration offence was committed.
(ii) To the Ministry of Food. A similar service is rendered to the Ministry of Food in the not infrequent case where there is not sufficient evidence to bring a rationing charge.
23. A quite different service rendered to the Ministry of Food is described at paragraph 20(vi)(c) above. If National Registration ceased it would no longer be possible in certain cases to prevent the ration book of an emigrant continuing to be used indefinitely by someone else after his departure.
24. (iii) Selective Death Notifications. By means of N.R. it is possible to notify to the Ministry of Pensions the deaths of particular pensioners who have been supplied with expensive apparatus (e.g. wheeled chairs) in order that the apparatus may be recovered at death. It would be possible to render similar a service in any other sphere of administration. Registrars of Deaths could not be expected or relied upon to pick out such cases — indeed they often fail to pick out certain general types of deaths which they are expected to report to particular authorities, such as Nurses, Solicitors, and Metropolitan Police Pensioners.
25. (iv) The temporary (yellow) identity card is of assistance to the police in enforcing aliens control. The necessity for periodical renewal of the card forces the alien to make out a case for permission to stay on in this country before he can get his ration book renewed at the annual re-issue. This card could also be of use to the Ministry of Health if they should decide to restrict the entitlement of temporary residents to treatment under the National Health service. (The Ministry have not yet decided what to do with the powers which they are seeking in the National Health Service Act (Amendment) Bill.) The temporary card is used in Northern Ireland to help in enforcement of the electoral and employment laws and to keep temporary visitors off the National Health Service.
26. (v) Statistics. While the loss of N.R. would not seriously affect the accuracy of the local and national mid-year estimates of population and the national breakdown of the population estimate by sex and age, it would take away something from such value as is at present possessed by our estimates of migration into and out of the country, and it would make it impossible to produce accurate local estimates of population by sex and age (except at census time) or figures of internal migration. Both of the latter are wanted by planning authorities.
27. Loss of N.R. would also mean that the Social Survey would be unable to obtain really random samples of local populations for interview purposes.
28. (vi) Universal Numbering System. The sorting of housing application forms to discover the extent of duplication was only possible on the basis of the universal numbering system provided by N.R. The Dental Estimates Board would have to re-sort all their records into alphabetical order, with much loss of efficiency. (cf. also para. 20(iii) above.)
29. (vii) Check on identity. Trouble is saved both to the public and to the local offices of the Ministry of Labour by the arrangement under which passport applications made in person if supported by the applicant's identity card do not need to have the applicant's identity vouched for by a magistrate, etc. The card is similarly used as a check on identity by e.g. railway companies, (lost property and sleeper reservations), post-offices (poste restante and delivery of parcels), and large stored (payments by cheque). The Football Association for the Wembley Cup Final in 1948, to prevent black market in sale of tickets, required applicants to produce their identity cards.
30. (viii) Check on address. The local offices of the National Assistance Board call for production of identity card and refuse assistance if the address on the applicant's card is out of the area. This prevents tricksters from going round from office to office and presenting themselves as fresh cases each time. The identity card is for the same reason called for by the Soldiers', Sailors' and Airmen's Families Association. At a "Town's Meeting" called in a London Borough in 1948 no one was admitted unless he could produce his identity card showing a local address. There were of course many more such uses during war-time.
31. Summary of I(2). [3 lines redacted] It is for consideration whether the value of N.R. in these fields, together with its lesser value in the other directions described in paras. 19 to 30 above, and the fact that it would cost something like £1,000,000 to start it up again in the event of another war, is worth the saving of something between £500,000 and £700,000 per annum that would accrue if it were brought to an end (see para. 18 above).
32. All that need be said on this score here is that while it is true that if this country went communist or fascist the National Register would prove a very handy means of finding any individual whom the authorities did not like, its uses in throwing up classes of individuals would be much more limited. The National Register cannot pick out the Jews or the Bougeoisie or the Roman Catholic priests or the agents or members of any political party. All it can pick out is aliens, without distinction of nationality, and persons of a particular sex and age, and persons who had a particular occupation in 1939 or some later date.
33. Some people may contend that even a democratic government might be tempted to use the National Register too much to the detriment of individuals. For instance, the adoption of a universal numbering system makes it easier for confidential information given to one Government Department to be passed on to another. And there is a feeling in some people's minds that N.R. turns the citizen from a human being into a mere cypher in the eyes of the Government. To such arguments it is fair to reply that it has been the consistent policy not to use the Register and [for?] the detriment of individuals except in cases of serious crime or for purposes of national security. All pressure to use it for debt-collecting has been successfully resisted, and experience has shown that (apart from a few difficult border-line cases) it is in general quite easy to maintain a firm line at that point. It is also fair to say that except in the minds of a few people particularly sensitive to threats to civil liberty, there is little uneasiness in the minds of the public that N.R. is likely to turn this country into a police state. The answer to complains that the system is inhuman is for the various Government Departments who rely on it to show, in their day-to-day dealings with the public, that they do regard them as individual human beings.