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William Beveridge

William Beveridge was born in 1879 and he became a social worker in the East End of London in 1903. Later, he visited Germany to see for himself the system of social insurance introduced by Bismarck. Beveridge became a journalist, writing mainly on social policy. He was noticed by Churchill (still a Liberal at that time) and in 1908, Beveridge became a civil servant at the Board of Trade. Over the next three years, he worked on a national system of labour exchanges, which were introduced by the Liberal Government of Lloyd George. This measure only covered 2.75m men , one in six of the workforce. Beveridge remained a civil servant for the duration of World War I and after the war, he became the Director of the London School of Economics (LSE). He continued academic work at the Universities of London and Oxford. In June 1941, he was asked to chair an interdepartmental committee on reconstruction problems and on the coordination of existing schemes of social insurance. At this time, the social security "system" was in a confused state : 7 Governments departments were involved in providing various cash benefits to some people. The 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. (Beveridge, Beveridge Report : Social Insurance and Allied Services, 1942)

The Beveridge Report

It had been thought Beveridge would just tidy up the existing schemes but in fact, he came up with a brand-new scheme. In December 1941, he produced a preliminary paper entitled Heads of a Scheme, setting out ideas and assumptions, which were repeated in a slightly amended form in the Report itself:

Three Assumptions : no satisfactory scheme of social security can be devised except on the following assumptions :

  1. Children’s allowances for children up to the age of 15 or if in the full-time education up to the age of 16;
  2. Comprehensive health and re-habilitation services for prevention and cure of disease and restoration of capacity for work, available to all members of the community;
  3. Maintenance of employment, that is to say avoidance of mass unemployment (Beveridge, ibid.)

These words take us a long way from the Means Test of the 1930’s and from private insurance. In Beveridge’s view, benefits should become rights. What was revolutionary was not that the system was based on "insurance", backed by the state, but that it would be universal, signifying and end to all means tests.

However, if insurance was to provide the basis for benefits, then children’s allowances would be paid whether the parents were in work or not. If children’s allowances were means tested, then the low-paid with large families would be better off out of work than working unless benefits were very low. This is the problem of the so-called "wage benefit overlap". It is interesting here to go back to Rowntree’s investigations in 1899 to see how families with many children were often penalised if the wages coming in were relatively low. Since Beveridge and others believed the birth rate was falling and thus the country would, in the long term, suffer from this decline, his ideas were also coloured by a desire to encourage women to have children and not to penalise them for so doing.

Beveridge was not the first to raise the questions of children’s allowances : Rowntree himself and others had advocated their introduction before the War and even in the period 1940-1941, an inter-Party group was formed to accelerate their introduction.

When the Report was published on December 1st 1942, it received massive approval. On the night before publication there was even queues outside HMSO (His Majesty’s Stationery Office) branches to buy it. Sales reached 6 figures before the end of the year. The Home Intelligence Unit of the Ministry of Information said the Report was welcomed with almost universal approval as the first real attempt to put into practice talk about the "new post-war world".

Beveridge wages War in his Report on five giants : Disease, Ignorance, Squalor, Idleness and Want i.e. poor health, poor education, poor living conditions, unemployment and poverty. At the beginning, Beveridge briefly explains the reasons why he had come to the conclusions he presents in his Report. He points out that the various schemes in existence have grown piecemeal over the years. Each problem had been dealt with separately : "the first task of the Committee has been to attempt for the first time a comprehensive survey of the whole field of social insurance and allied services, to show just what provision is now made and how it is made for many different forms of need".

Beveridge does not begin with an open criticism of the status quo. The situation in Britain, he says, is "hardly rivaled in other country of the world". However Britain does fall short in the field of medical services "both in the range of treatment which is provided as of right and in respect of the classes of persons for whom it is provided" and in the field of cash benefits "for maternity and funerals and through the defects of its system for workmen’s compensation". Beveridge adds that the "limitation of compulsory insurance to persons under contract of service and below a certain remuneration if engaged on non-manual work is a serious gap". He advocates therefore a closer coordination which would help beneficiaries and indeed cost less in administrative costs.

He then goes on the point out three guiding principles of recommendations, and signals the way to freedom from want. Later, he indicates what he means by the notion of "social insurance" which underpins the Report : "it implies both that it is compulsory and that men stand together with their fellows. The term implies a pooling of risks…". The concept behind it is innovative : universality and national solidarity – instead of each person, each category of worker having a separate system or even no system of cover, all workers are treated in the same way, in exchange for their contributions. The Report then goes into great detail about the proposed level of contributions and is rather technical. The conclusion to the Report, presented immediately before a large section of appendices, is entitled "planning for peace in war". Beveridge points out the likely arguments supporters or detractors, on one side or another, of his Report will make. He answers them by situating the Report in its historical (and historic) context and as a fine war aim to set out, through courage and faith, in a spirit of national unity, as a victory for justice.

The impact of the Beveridge Report

Many people misunderstood the Beveridge Report, thinking it proposed free welfare benefits, when it fact it promised insurance benefits, based on insurance contributions and children’s allowances based on taxation since plainly "you don’t get something for nothing". An illusion was created that in some way, this was going to be a generous gift from the state to all individuals. This misunderstanding was in part cultivated by Beveridge himself. Yet if one looks closely at the text, he refers to providing people with a "subsistence level", with the onus on them to work to improve their lot.

To understand the impact of the Beveridge Report, one must look back to the inter-war years. Then, the question of the myth of national solidarity during the hard months marked by the threat of invasion and the Blitz needs to be considered. Divisions in the country may have forgotten at a time of national crisis, but the basic problems still existed : injustice, inequality, indifference were still prevalent, especially in many industrial cities of the North, Glasgow, South Wales and the East End of London. And even in the superficially ore affluent rural areas, agricultural workers were hardly well-off.

Beveridge’s ideas were in tune with current thinking and that’s the reason for its success. Many thought the Report was going to lead to radical "utopian" social change. Those witnesses called by the Committee also broadly supported radical change. Also, the need to modernise, coordinate, ration and centralise during the War sapped traditional ideas of individuality and a small role for the State. Beveridge had leaked much of what was in the Report, so there was a great expectation. Sometimes his leaks were unfortunate : "[the report] would take the country half-way to Moscow". This guaranteed him and his Report a cool reception from the Government. Nevertheless, Montgomery’s success at the battle of El Alamein had just taken place and this victory, for the first time, over the so-called "invincible Germans", caused church bells to ring out on November 15th 1942, just before the publication of the Report, so it could be said to have arrived at a propitious moment for the country.

Public reaction was enthusiastic but other reactions were mixed. There were some who did not believe in all this talk of a "new Jerusalem", such as Sir John Forbes Watson, Director of the Confederation of British Employers (CBE) and J. S. Boyd, Vice-President of the Shipbuilders Employers’ Federation, who thought the measures could not be afforded. Churchill’s position was perhaps surprising : he was against the Report, preoccupied as he was with winning the War, and thus with foreign policy before home policy. Churchill had defined the terms for the Coalition in the following terms : "everything for the war, whether controversial or not, and nothing controversial that is not bona fide needed for the war". Also, Churchill wondered, with others, if it could be afforded. In his opinion, it was impossible, financially speaking, immediately. Conservatives were unsuccessful at by-elections, as they gave the impression they were against it. He was obliged eventually to make a speech in 1943 modulating his position and claiming the credit for inaugurating a reflection on the question of National Insurance.

A Whitehall Committee was set up to look into the implementation of the Report. Then, White Papers were produced on the subject of a National Health Service, Employment policy and Education, the latter leading to the 1944 Education Act. Therefore, even though it was the Labour Government of 1945 which introduced the Welfare State, preparatory work had been done by Churchill’s Coalition Government, which of course included many Conservatives.

Introduction

The SNP was born in 1934. It was not very successful as a political party (poor results). In April 1945, the SNP sent for the first time an MP to Parliament (Motherwell by-election). In July, the same year, it lost its unique seat during the general election.

1950’s: poor results

Due to the lack of cohesion within the party: there were lots of divisions on a number of issues. And it had e negative image in public opinion: nationalism was considered as evil and often associated with Nazi Germany and World War II.

1960’s: breakthrough

1967: Hamilton by-election won by the SNP. The candidate elected was a woman, Winnifred Ewing.
1968: local elections. Very good results for the SNP.

People felt Scotland was spared the benefits of the economic boom of the United Kingdom. Scotland was among the regions which benefited least. Feeling of discontent among the Scots. The SNP made progress.

After 1968, the SNP started to be taken seriously by both the Labour and the Conservative parties. Reactions :

  • Conservative Party (in opposition)

    In May 1968, Edward Heath (leader of the Conservative party) said he would give Scotland an Assembly: this is known as the “Declaration of Perth”. He created a constitutional committee presided by Sir Alec-Douglas-Home. The committee produced a report called “Scotland’s Government” in 1970.

    Recommendations:
       – creation of a Scottish Assembly,
       – 125 members elected directly,
       – powers to initiate and discuss Bills (to be approved by the British Parliament in Westminster).

  • Labour Party (in office)

    The Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, appointed the Royal Commission on the Constitution in 1968. The chairman was Lord Kilbrandon and it is referred to as the “Kilbrandon Commission”. It produced 2 reports in 1973.

    Recommendations:
       – creation of a Scottish Assembly,
       – members elected directly by Proportional Representation (major innovation compared to the first-past-the-post system).

1970’s: ups and downs

The 1970’s General Election saw the Conservative victory. Edward Heath became Prime Minister. In 1968, he had said that he would give Scotland its Assembly… it was no longer on the agenda. One of the priorities was the EEC membership (should Britain join the European Union: she did in 1972) and the industrial relations. SNP got bad results and was less of a threat for the other parties. And there was the argument that a commission had been appointed.

1971: discovery of oilfields in the North Sea. The SNP used it as an argument: Scotland could be independent because she had enough money. It gave a boost to the SNP, which launched a campaign entitled “It’s Scotland’s Oil”.

1974: general election. SNP results:
     February: 22.1%        7 MPs
     October:   30.4%     11 MPs
No party obtained the majority in Parliament: “hung Parliament”. Small majority with the 2nd election in October.

October 1976: the Scotland and Wales Bill was introduced in the House of Commons. The Labour Party in Scotland was not in favour of devolution. Strong opposition from Labour and Conservatives: hundreds of amendments were proposed. As there were too many divisions and amendments, the Labour Government chose to withdraw the Bill.

November 1977: the Scotland Bill and the Wales Bill were introduced in the House of Commons. Why a new try ? Because the Labour Government had lost its majority and relied on the Nationalists or the Liberals. So two different Bills: one for Scotland and one for Wales. 1977: Lib-Lab pact (Liberals and Labour governing together).

February 1978: the Scotland Act.
It was never applied: 2 amendments killed the Act:

  • 1st amendment: a referendum should apply the Scotland Act (the Scots should vote for it),
  • 2nd amendment: minimum threshold of 40% of “Yes” votes, called “the 40% rule” or “the Cunningham Amendment”: 40% of the registered voters should vote “Yes”.

The referendum took place on March 1st 1979. The turnout was 63.8%.
   – 51.6% Yes    [32.5% of registered voters]
   – 48.4% No      [30.8% of registered voters]

A motion of no confidence is voted by the SNP and the Conservatives (kind of alliance). It was adopted by a majority of 1 vote and, as a result, the Prime Minister resigned. The Parliament was dissolved and a general election was set up.

May 1st 1979: Conservative victory: Margaret Thatcher becomes PM.The Scotland Act was immediately repealed.

Sommaire de la série Scottish Politics: devolution

  1. Definitions : the State, the Nation, Home Rule and Devolution
  2. Scottish Home Rule
  3. The Act of Union of 1707
  4. The rise of the Scottish National Party (SNP)
  5. The Scottish Parliament

Introduction

After the Union of 1707, Scotland started to export goods massively: especially linen, cattle and tobacco (Glasgow was nicknamed the “tobacco metropolis”). Gradually the Union came to represent carreer opportunities for upper class and middle class scots: some joined the Army in India, some became merchants in London and some others migrated to North America as settlers.

1760’s: 1st Industrial Revolution in Scotland. Until then, Scotland was a rural country. It became rapidly urbanized.

1760-1830: scottish economy based on the textile industry (cotton, linen and wool).

After 1830, new industries appeared: the steel industry and the shipbuilding industry.

During Victorian Scotland (1837-1901), all industries were owned by the Scots. They were prosperous and exported their goods all over the world. There was no feeling of discontent for they were pride to be contributing to the Empire, adding up their prosperity.

In the 1880’s, Scottish home rule (more autonomy) emerged as an issue in Scottish politics. It was the result of 3 factors:

1. A growing feeling in Scotland that the Government was not devoting enough time and attention to Scotland

In comparison with time devoted to Ireland, Scotland felt neglected by the Government. The Irish people was rewarded for their violence when non-violent Scotland did not get any attention.

In 1853 was created the National Association for the Vindication of Scottish Rights. It was close to the Conservative Party and complained about the fact that Ireland received more support from the British Government than Scotland and that Westminster lacked of Scottish MPs.

2. The conversion of William Gladstone to Irish Home Rule

In 1886, William Gladstone (a Liberal MP) introduced a Bill before Parliament: the Irish Home Rule Bill. It was due to the pressure of the Home Rule Association created in 1870 in Dublin. The association wanted a Parliament responsible for domestic affairs.

In 1871, in Aberdeen, Gladstone (not converted yet) said that if home rule was granted to Ireland then the same should apply to Scotland. In 1885, the Post of Secretary for Scotland was re-established (it had been abolished after the battle of Culloden in 1745) to promote Scotland’s interests and voice its grievances to the British Parliament. The Scottish Office was created the same year: it wass purely administrative (the Post of Secretary for Scotland led it). When Scots compared what they had (a people in London) to what Ireland had (its own Parliament), anger progressively arose.

In 1886, the Scottish Home Rule Association was set up. It was not a political party but a nationalist organization close to the Liberal Party. They wanted a Parliament responsible for Scottish domestic affairs and did not want to end the Union.

3. A growing nationalist sentiment in Scotland

London was considered as the center of the Empire and this was resented in Scotland. As for Government’s subsidies, London was getting the lion’s share, especially for galleries and museums. As a consequence: renewed interest for everything Scottish in Scotland, reinforcement of their distinct national identity. A number of societies were created in Scotland to compete with their rivals in London:

  • 1884: Scottish Geographical Society
  • 1886: Scottish Historical Society

1895-1905: Scottish Home Rule was not on the political agenda of the Conservative Government (they were against it).

1906: the Liberals got the power but the question of SHR did not come immediately.
1910-1914: British politics dominated by:

  • Irish Home Rule: legislation passed in 1912.
  • Scottish Home Rule: Bill debated in 1913 but process interrupted by World War I.

After the war, a 2nd Scottish Home Rule Association was created for the first one became inactive. The objectives remained the same: more autonomy and not independence. Not a political party and no candidates. Will to remain non-partisan. Means used: putting pressure on the Government and on the MP representing Scotland in Parliament. In spite of this pression, there was no progress for Scotland at the Parliamentary level.

1921: the Parliament voted the Government of Ireland, creating the Irish Free State.Even after 1921, no results.

1920-1934: Creation of organizations and political parties

1920: Scots National League: much more radical organization: they wanted independence, promoted the Gaelic culture and language. Yet, it did not have a strategy to achieve independence. They lacked unity and split. The result of the split was:

1926: the Scottish National Movement : focused on culture. No strategy to achieve independence.

1927: the Glasgow University Scottish Nationalist Organization : created by students and members of the Labour Party. John MacCormick was one of the leader and he is still considered today as the father of modern nationalism. He was a moderateand wanted Scotland to stay in the UK. He managed to convince the other nationalist organizations to create a nationalist party.

1928: the National Party of Scotland : left wing party. Objective: not independence but Scotland within the framework of UK. The NPS was a party but his electoral results were poor. Divisions appeared for the NPS was the sum of different organizations with different opinions (moderates and radicals). The radicals said the poor results were due to the moderates.

1932: the Scottish Party : right wing party in Glasgow. Embodiement of reasonable nationalism. The press was very favourable to them.

As there was not enough room for 2 nationalist parties a fusion had to be made between the Nationalist Party of Scotland and the Scottish Party. They merged in 1934.

1934: the Scottish National Party : born of a left wing party and of a right wing party. The SNP is still divided, not homogenous and has various political affiliations.

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