Beveridge Report

Beveridge Report

The Beveridge Report was the Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Social Insurance and Allied Services chaired by William Beveridge, an economist. [cite web
publisher=Blackwell Synergy - Int Social Security Review, Volume 45 Issue 1-2 Page 5-16, January 1992
title=The Beveridge Report: Its origins and outcomes


In 1940, during Second World War, the Labour Party had entered into a coalition with the Conservative Party. On 10 June, 1941 Arthur Greenwood, the Labour MP and Minister without Portfolio, had announced the creation of an inter-departmental committee which would carry out a survey of Britain's social insurance and allied services. Its terms of reference were:

To undertake, with special reference to the inter-relation of the schemes, a survey of the existing national schemes of social insurance and allied services, including workmen's compensation, and to make recommendations.

Its members were civil servants from the Home Office, Ministry of Labour and National Service, Ministry of Pensions, Government Actuary, Ministry of Health, HM Treasury, Reconstruction Secretariat, Board of Customs and Excise, Assistance Board, Department of Health for Scotland, Registry of Friendly Societies and Office of the Industrial Assurance Commissioner.

The Report

The Report offered three guiding principles to its recommendations:

1. Proposals for the future should not limited by "sectional interests" in learning from experience and that a "revolutionary moment in the world's history is a time for revolutions, not for patching".

2. Social insurance is only one part of a "comprehensive policy of social progress". The five giants on the road to reconstruction were Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness.

3. Policies of social security "must be achieved by co-operation between the State and the individual", with the state securing the service and contributions. The state " should not stifle incentive, opportunity, responsibility; in establishing a national minimum, it should leave room and encouragement for voluntary action by each individual to provide more than that minimum for himself and his family".


Inside the Cabinet there was debate, instigated by Brendan Bracken, on 16 November 1942 over whether to publish the Report as a White Paper at that time. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Kingsley Wood, believed the Report to be "ambitious and involv [ing] an impracticable financial commitment" and therefore publication should be postponed. However the Cabinet decided on 26 November to publish it on 2 December. [Correlli Barnett, "The Audit of War" (Pan, 2001), pp. 26-27.]

The Ministry of Information Home Intelligence found that the Report had been "welcomed with almost universal approval by people of all shades of opinion and by all sections of the community" and seen as "the first real attempt to put into practice the talk about a new world". In a sample taken in the fortnight after the Report's publication, the British Institute of Public Opinion found that 95% of the public had heard of the Report and that there was "great interest in it" but criticism that old age pensions were not high enough. They also found that "there was overwhelming agreement that the plan should be put into effect". [Barnett, p. 29.]

"The Times" said of the Report: "a momentous document which should and must exercise a profound and immediate influence on the direction of social change in Britain". The "Manchester Guardian" called it "a big and fine thing". The "Daily Telegraph" said it was a consummation of the revolution began by David Lloyd George in 1911. The Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, said it was "the first time anyone had set out to embody the whole spirit of the Christian ethic in an Act of Parliament". [Barnett, p. 29.]

There was a planned debate in Parliament on the Report for February 1943 so the Cabinet appointed the Lord President of the Council, Sir John Anderson, to chair a committee to consider the Report and to set out the government's line in the Commons debate. In the Commons debate the government announced they would not implement the Report immediately. The Tory Reform Committee, consisting of 45 Conservative MPs, demanded the founding of a Ministry of Social Security immediately. At the division at the end of the debate, 97 Labour MPs, 11 Independents, 9 Liberals, 3 Independent Labour Party MPs and 1 Communist voted against the government. [Barnett, p. 30.] A Ministry of Information Home Intelligence report found that after the debate the left-wing section of the public were disappointed but that "an approving minority" thought that the government was correct in waiting until the post-war financial situation were known before making a decision. An opinion poll by the British Institute of Public Opinion found that 29% were satisfied with the government's attitude to the Report; 47% were dissatisfied and 24% "don't knows". [Barnett, p. 31.]

Churchill gave a broadcast on 21 March, 1943 titled "After the War" where he warned the public not to impose "great new expenditure on the State without any relation to the circumstances which might prevail at the time" and said there would be "a four-year plan" of post-war reconstruction "to cover five or six large measures of a practical character" which would be put to the electorate after the war and implemented by a new government. These measures were "national compulsory insurance for all classes for all purposes from the cradle to the grave"; the abolition of unemployment by government policies which would "exercise a balancing influence upon development which can be turned on or off as circumstances require"; "a broadening field for State ownership and enterprise"; new housing; major reforms to education; largely expanded health and welfare services. [Barnett, pp. 31-32.]


After the Labour Party's victory in the 1945 general election they proceeded to implement many social policies which became known as the Welfare State. These included the Family Allowances Act 1945 , National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act 1946, National Insurance Act 1946, National Health Service Act 1946, Pensions (Increase) Act 1947, Landlord and Tenant (Rent Control) Act 1949, National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act 1948, National Insurance Act 1949.


Further reading

*Paul Addison, "The Road to 1945" (Jonathan Cape, 1975).
*Janet Beveridge, "Beveridge and His Plan" (Hodder & Stoughton, 1954).
*Jose Harris, "William Beveridge. A Biography" (Clarendon Press, 1997).

External links

* [ Text of the Report on the BBC website]

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