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Identity Cards were first used in the United Kingdom during the two World Wars—first under the National Registration Act 1915 and then under the National Registration Act 1939. Following a high court ruling that called into question whether it was right for authorities to continue to use a power given during a national emergency when the emergency no longer existed, May 1952 saw wartime identity cards formally ended.

In the period that followed, there remained some support for the reintroduction of identity cards and, in May 1995, the then Conservative Government published a green paper on identity cards. In June 1996, the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee published a report on identity cards, which was in favour of the introduction of some form of voluntary identity card, subject to a number of provisos. The Queen’s Speech of parliamentary session 1996–97 included a commitment to publish a draft Bill on the introduction of voluntary ID cards. However, the May 1997 general election cut the session short and no draft Bill was published. 

In 2002, the then Labour Government launched a consultation on entitlement cards (later referred to by the Government as “identity cards”). Of those who responded, the majority supported an ID card scheme. The Identity Cards Bill was introduced into the House of Commons by the Government on 29 November 2004. The Bill completed its Commons stages and received second reading in the House of Lords, but was dropped before it completed its remaining stages due to the timing of the 2005 general election. A similar Bill was introduced into Parliament on 25 May 2005 and received royal assent on 30 March 2006. The Identity Cards Act 2006 created a framework for national identity cards in the UK and a national identity register. 

Following a change of government in 2010, the Identity Documents Act 2010 was passed by the Conservative–Liberal Democrat Coalition Government. The Act cancelled ID cards and enabled the disposal of information recorded in the national identity register. The UK national identity card ceased to be a legal document for confirming a person’s identity on 21 January 2011 and all data was “securely destroyed” along with the national identity register on 10 February 2011. The current Government has said it has “no plans” to reintroduce identity cards for British citizens. 

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