THOUGH you won’t read much about the anniversary in the Tory press, it was 75 years ago today that the contents of the Beveridge Report were first made public. It had been discussed by the Cabinet after being completed on 20 November, 1942, and it was decided to print the document for public sale on December 2. It was taken to Parliament the day before it went on sale and thus today is the 75th anniversary of its publication.

Despite it being a Government report and not exactly an easy read, the Report by Sir William Beveridge became an instant bestseller and the precis and instruction were sold separately, eventually selling more than 630,000 copies – a summary was used in a leaflet bombing of Germany to show what the Allies were fighting for.

Funnily enough, the current Tory-DUP Government isn’t exactly falling over itself to mark the anniversary, but then the Beveridge Report brought in Britain’s welfare state and the National Health Service and they’re not exactly Conservative causes, are they?


THERE is little doubt that the Beveridge Report is one of, if not the, most important documents of 20th century British history and thus the Government’s failure to mark the 75th anniversary borders on the criminal.

The actual title of the report was “Social Insurance and Allied Services” and no other official government report has had such a transformational effect on British society.

It was commissioned by the wartime coalition government, and Cabinet responsibility for it lay with Arthur Greenwood, the deputy leader of the Labour Party who was Minister without Portfolio under Winston Churchill.

Greenwood chose Sir William Beveridge, the former director of the London School of Economics (LSE) and Master of University College, Oxford, at the suggestion of Ernest Bevin, Minister of Labour, for whom Beveridge worked at the time. Rumour had it that Bevin wanted shot of the patrician Beveridge, and in turn Beveridge was at first reluctant to take the post of chairing the committee that would produce the report as he would have to write it himself.

The formation of the committee was announced by Health Minister Ernest Brown, the Liberal National MP for Leith, in May 1941, and for Beveridge to produce the 300-page report by November of the following year was quite remarkable work.


BORN to an Indian Civil Service officer in 1879, Beveridge was educated at Charterhouse public school and Balliol College, Oxford, where he obtained a first-class degree in mathematics and classics before studying law. He looked set for a life as an academic or lawyer before his career took an unexpected turn. He became interested in unemployment and social policy and within a few years was chosen by Churchill, then President of the Board of Trade, to organise the Labour Exchange and National Insurance system prior to World War One.

He was knighted for his war work in mobilising the services, before becoming director of the LSE, a job he held until 1937.

He was a believer in eugenics, and while that was a popular belief in the 1920s, it fell out of favour in the 1930s, especially after Hitler’s distorted ideas of eugenics were made public. He briefly became a Liberal MP towards the end of the war before being ennobled as Baron Beveridge of Tuggal in Northumberland. He lived long enough to see his recommendations fulfilled and died in 1953 at the age of 84.


BEVERIDGE knew it had to be simple enough to catch public attention yet detailed enough to show that a new Welfare State and National Health Service was not only possible but desirable. He went beyond the bare terms of reference and produced something quite visionary.

No one really knows which of the many civil servants came up with the basic ideas but Beveridge brilliantly summed them up as he crafted a philosophy of tackling what he identified as society’s greatest evil – poverty.

He wrote of the slaying of the Five Giants of Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness, and also of the “three assumptions” to be implemented – a new National Health Service (the Health Ministry was already working on it) to be made free at the point of use, a new set of children’s allowances to support families and an assumption that the State would use its powers to reduce unemployment and maintain full employment, defined as no more than three per cent unemployed. National Insurance would be transformed, and social security would be introduced.


WINSTON Churchill called Beveridge a”windbag and a dreamer” and decided that the report’s recommendations should be “sat on” until after the war. Big mistake. Labour fought the 1945 election on implementing the report, and the rest, as they say, is history, which is what Beveridge’s NHS and social security will be if some Tories get their way.