Ward's Book of Days.

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What happened on this day in history.


On this day in history in 1879, was born William Beveridge.

Beveridge was an economist and politician who thought up the idea of the welfare state.

William Henry Beveridge was born on 5th March 1879, at Rangpur, India, the son of a lawyer in the Indian Civil Service. He was educated at Charterhouse School and Balliol College, Oxford, where he read law. He entered the Civil Service with the Board of Trade and became involved with the Liberal government’s innovative plan for a national insurance system. In 1908, he was given the task of creating and directing the new Labour Exchanges, places where job information could be obtained, now known as Job Centres.  In 1909, he published Unemployment: A Problem of Industry, in which he argued that full employment could be obtained if industry were not constrained by over regulation. He encouraged the government to bring in a system of National Insurance, whereby contributions were collected from employers and employees, and used to provide social security. During the First World War, he was involved in mobilising and controlling manpower. After the war, he was knighted and made permanent secretary of the Ministry of Food.

In 1919, Beveridge left the civil service to become director of the London School of Economics. Here he argued that a scheme for social welfare would benefit employees and employers alike. The employees would be relieved from poverty, and employers would benefit from a healthier motivated workforce, who would also benefit industry by having the purchasing power to create a demand for goods. Thus Beveridge appealed to Socialists and Conservatives alike. In 1937, he was appointed Master of University College, Oxford.

In 1941, the government ordered a report on how Britain’s social structure should be rebuilt after the Second World War. Beveridge was the obvious choice to compile the blueprints for the new British welfare state. In 1942, he produced The Report on Social Insurance, proposing that all people of working age should pay a weekly national insurance contribution. Benefits would be paid to the sick, unemployed, retired and widowed, thereby providing a minimum standard of living for all citizens. He referred to ‘Five Great Evils’ in society, want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness, all of which could be eliminated under his policy.

In 1944, Beveridge joined the Liberal Party and was elected to the House of Commons, as member for Berwick-upon-Tweed. In 1946, he was created Baron Beveridge of Tuggal and later became Liberal leader in the Lords.

In 1945, the new Labour Government implemented Beveridge's proposals. This included National Insurance, exactly as he had proposed and, in addition, the establishment of a National Health Service, with free medical treatment for all citizens. Beveridge retired and received his own Old Age Pension, until he died on 16th March 1963.

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