Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Optimistic overture...

...or maybe not. Just to prove that I am not all mean and blinkered 'right-wing' ideologue I would like to say well done to ex Treasury Minister Liam Byrne who has made an honest assessment in decrying the UK's bloated welfare state; Byrne has been honest before you may recall ("There's No Money Left").

"For [Beveridge], 'idleness' was an evil every bit as insidious as disease or squalor."... "He would have wanted reform that was tough-minded, and asked everyone to work hard to find a job."..."He never foresaw unearned support as desirable."... "Unemployment benefit after a certain period should be conditional upon attendance at a work or training centre"... "something for something".

Referring to the Beveridge Report, 70 years on: the gist of the report was to counter five 'Giant Evils', these were Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness. Now, almost 15 years have passed since Frank Field, the former Labour welfare reform minister was asked by Tony Blair to "think the unthinkable"...he did and was then side-lined and discarded; Liam, is this a rerun?

I would like to remind people that the committee for the Beveridge report was a cross party effort from the then wartime Coalition government. Also, other things that seem to be forgotten 'in the mists of time': "While the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party quickly adopted Beveridge's proposals, the Labour Party was slow to follow. Labour leaders opposed Beveridge's idea of a National Health Service run through local health centres and regional hospital administrations, preferring a state-run body. [ref:Beveridge, Power and Influence.]

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Paul said...

Must have been confusing living in Britain in the 1940's - on one side you had those who believed in full employment but you also had those who believed that increased mechanisation would lead to fewer people being needed in work - something that would turn out to be true during the 1960's and 1970's.

We expect too much of the welfare state in this country and all parties have been responsible for that from the arguments over how to best manage it (see Mrs Thatchers notes where she eventually gives up) to Labour wanting to spend even more money on it.

Incidentally when I first read your post I misread the last three words of the third paragraph and thought it said "the five Giant Elvis'" - which was a tad unfair as he was a lot slimmer back then.

Span Ows said...

you made me misread it now! :-)

Yes, funny old world, on the Wiki page of the report it also says that "Beveridge complained about the opposition of Labour leaders, including that of Ernest Bevin: "For Ernest Bevin, with his trade-union background of unskilled workers... social insurance was less important than bargaining about wages.", now I know he was on about very low paid unskilled workers 'lucky to have a job' but it's almost a Conservative approach, pay them more and they'll be able top pay for their own medical bills; so you had two giants of mid-century Labour at odds!