asked the Minister of Health what procedure should be followed by men returning to civilian life after military service and by children born within the last five years, who have no national registration numbers, and by other people who have forgotten their national registration numbers, when they are asked to produce those numbers for National Health Service purposes.
I am not asking about National Health Service numbers. I am asking about the national registration numbers which are asked for when application is made for service under the National Health Scheme. Is it not ridiculous that people should still be asked for the national registration numbers, which most of them do not know? Does the hon. Lady know her own national registration number?
CMBR 53/1. I think the hon. Gentleman will recognise that no sizeable registration scheme with so many people bearing the same name could possibly be carried out without some method using numbers. In the case of the National Health Service, it was obviously the better solution to take the national registration numbers, which were available and were known to most people, who had borne them for 10 years, rather than institute an entirely new Health Service scheme.
Nonsense. The hon. Member has asked me about men returning to civilian life, and I have stated that on release they are told, and reminded in their discharge papers, what their Health Service number is.
If the hon. Gentleman will cast his mind back, he will remember that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House most emphatically in this House enjoined people when the national identity card system came to an end that the numbers would apply to the National Health Service.
Can the hon. Lady really deal with this? Was it not the case that the country was given the impression that it was a great act of virtue on the part of the Government to abolish the national registration numbers, that it was, so to speak, an act of setting the people free, but is it not the case now that we are told that people should not have been set free and that they should remember their registration numbers? Are they not now landed with two numbers, the registration number and the National Health number, and will they not get into a state of confusion?
The right hon. Gentleman—it is unusual for him, I must confess—is more than ever confused about this matter. It was due to the practical application of common sense by this Government that, instead of instituting a new series of registration numbers for the National Health Service, we applied the national registration numbers.