1st December 1942. Cradle to Grave.
Welcome to December.
Beatrice Webb, the Fabian Socialist: ‘The better you treat unemployed in the way of income without service, the worst the evil becomes’.
The blueprint for post-World War II social security in Britain-already being referred to as the Welfare State-was published Today in the 1942 Beveridge Report.
It was in June 1941 that Anthony Greenwood, a member of Churchill’s War Cabinet, asked economist William Beveridge to chair what was intended to be a minor committee on social insurance benefits.
By December 1942 the Social Insurance and Allied Services Report was published with its author optimistically suggesting a start of the scheme on 1st July 1944, with disbursements in 1945. The Report proved a best seller.
Ernest Bevin, Minister of Labour was not hopeful of an early response: ‘The Beveridge Report which was the one egg laid for post war planning’ he wrote, ‘the Tories are doing their best to addle…. There is one thought haunting the Tory Party and that is how they are going to cheat the progressive forces in the country’.
Bevin however once leader of Britain’s largest Trade Union seemed to favour the power of the Unions to improve the welfare of the population, even denouncing Beveridge as a ‘social ambulance’.
In January and February 1943, Churchill sent memoranda to colleagues that he would not seek to implement Beveridge during the war, or make any promises post-war. He was tempted to describe any ideas of planning as, ‘airy visions of Utopia and Eldorado’.
However by 21st March he was broadcasting a proposal of a ‘four year plan of national construction’ and a ‘national comprehensive insurance for all classes, from the cradle to the grave’.(1)
Outside parliament support for some universal insurance came from the likes of ‘social conscience’ writers such as J.B. Priestley, whose ‘Journey round Britain’, helped to mould public opinion.
The Beveridge Report was to take 5½ years to implement, and then only after doleful Tory Chancellors of the Exchequer had delivered prophecies about its cost, culminating in their last ditch fight against the 1948 introduction of the National Health Service (NHS).
(1) On 3rd March 1943, the evangelising proprietor Edward Hulton of the magazine, Picture Post carried a letter from three public schoolboys.
‘We are deeply disgusted with Parliament’s handling of the Beveridge Report, which shows more strongly than ever, that the financial interests and the Baldwin-Chamberlain hangers-on do all they can to delay and destroy any reforms…They wondered whether this was the brave new world they would soon be fighting for’.
Ref: fabians.org/Pic Image/5 giants.
Ref: cartoons.ac.uk/record/evening standard 3.12.1942.David Low 1891-1963/Pic.Image of Bus.
Ref: cartoons.ac.uk/daily-mail.L.G.Illingworth/2.12.1942/Pic.Image of soldier.
Ref: dailymail.co.uk/news.23.5. 2014.