Compulsory identity cards had been re-introduced into the UK during World War II. After the War the Labour government decided, under prompting from the police and secret police, decided they would quite like to continue the scheme.
In December 1950, Harry Willcock, 54 year old dry-cleaning manager was stopped while driving in London by a police constable who demanded that he present
his identity card at a police station within 48 hours.
Wilcock refused and was prosecuted under the National Registration Act 1939, convicted
and fined 10 shillings. During his trial he argued that identity cards
had no place in peace time.
In his subsequent appeal the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales upheld the judgement of the lower court, though in summing up, the Lord Chief Justice showed sympathy for the defence;
"This Act was passed for security purposes, and not for the purposes
for which, apparently, it is now sought to be used. To use Acts of
Parliament, passed for particular purposes during war, in times when the
war is past, except that technically a state of war exists, tends to
turn law-abiding subjects into lawbreakers, which is a most undesirable
state of affairs.
Further, in this country we have always prided
ourselves on the good feeling that exists between the police and the
public and such action tends to make the people resentful of the acts of
the police and inclines them to obstruct the police instead of to
Mr. Wilcock then started a campaign against ID cards. When a Conservative government came to power it scrapped ID cards, against the wishes of the
police and the security services.