§ LORD NATHAN rose to call attention to the Beveridge Report; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, whatever differences there may be amongst us as to the contents of Sir William Beveridge's Report, we shall all be agreed upon this, that by this very remarkable piece of work he has made the country his debtor. It was said shortly after the Report had been produced that a monument ought to be raised to him. He has raised his own monument—here it is—in this Report. This is a significant and, in a sense, a solemn occasion, for we are meeting to debate a great project on the morrow of a great disappointment. We are meeting on an occasion which gives the Government—which all of us wish to support in the prosecution of the war—a second chance. To-day the Government have the opportunity to undo the harm they have done to Britain at home and abroad by their faint hearts, their guarded speech, their little understanding of what "Beveridge" has come to mean. Today they have an opportunity to do the good for Britain, and in the world's eyes, that lies in their power to do if they have the will.
§ In the course of a few short weeks the word "Beveridge" has come to mean a great deal more than a man or a Report. In the Forces, in the factories, abroad, at home, the mere term "Beveridge" connotes a symbol of hope in the future, a source of faith in the power of ordered planning, an earnest of helpfulness for the unfortunate. It is a new word in our vocabulary. It means confidence that want can be prevented, not by miracles but by taking thought; that the poor need not be always with us if we will it otherwise; that the very pre-condition of independence — security — can be achieved. Overseas "Beveridge" has become a synonym for social progress. Country after country is seeking its own Beveridge plan for a national minimum below which no citizen or family may fall. Your Lordships may recall that, in a recent broadcast from the United States by Mr. Raymond Gram Swing, he rated the Beveridge Report as the most valuable British export since the war. Hope and faith at home in the factories and among the Forces have been—I will not say quenched, for they are unquenchable, but 231 they have been clamped down. The most valuable of exports has been banned. Just as for two months this country stood in the van so only this country, experienced in peace tempered by war, could have produced such a plan; only in this country, this compact, skilled, wealthy country, with its long tradition of social policy, could such a plan be accepted and applied. Now, the Government have led this country back to the side lines, to think again, to ponder and consider and take care, while hope burns low and enthusiasm gutters.
§ No one at home or abroad knows what the Government intend to do, when they intend to do it, or how. That is the importance of this debate—these critical questions—What? When? How? It is not a Party matter, it is a national, nay more, an international issue, but Parliament can only serve as a Council of State if it is given a statesmanlike lead by statesmen. Here is a second chance in your Lordships' House to-day. Will the Government take the second chance or are all these hopes, is all this zeal to run so soon into the sand? If so, the consequences may have the effects of a great military disaster as regards the morale and efficiency of those who will be affected. The Government of course will deny that they fail or falter. Already a legend has been stimulated that they really accept the plan, that it was the manner and not the matter of their words that disappointed. They are saying that a good case representing a large acceptance was put badly by Sir John Anderson and Sir Kingsley Wood, and put well by Mr. Morrison. But is that true? The case was badly put by Sir John Anderson and Sir Kingsley Wood, and it was put well by Mr. Morrison; but was it a good case? Are the Government safer from reproach in their Morrison shelter than in their Anderson?
§ The Government will say: "We have rejected nothing outright; we have pledged ourselves in principle"—and it is true, but without commitment—"to a very great deal after a very short time. In principle too, of course, without commitment we have accepted all the assumptions, maintenance of employment, children's allowances and medical services, and all but seven of the proposals." In a sense that is true. The 232 acceptance in principle without commitment of children's allowances, a comprehensive insurance scheme and the end of Approved Societies is an advance in principle, but could they have done less? Could any man of right mind and ordinary sensibility avoid saying: "This is a good idea." That is all they have said—"This is a good idea, we agree with it provisionally, subject to further review and conditional at every point on finance." They say: "It is a pretty picture. We would like to hang it, but we must warn you that we may have to turn its face to the wall."
§ I take the words of all three Ministers who have spoken at their face value. I add nothing, I deduct nothing. What emerges? That the Government have rejected practically nothing; they have agreed in principle but without commitment; there is no firm acceptance in practice. The difference between Anderson-Wood on the one hand and Mr. Morrison on the other hand is that Anderson-Wood stressed the conditions of agreement while Mr. Morrison stressed the agreement itself in principle and subject to every reserve. But the net effect is the same—no pledges, no commitments, no plan, no progress. Here was a scheme which might have acted as a tonic and an inspiration, rousing the spirits and the morale of all our people. In fact, the occasion has been used in such a way that it has lowered and depressed spirits and morale. Instead of inspiration we have disappointment, frustration, exasperation.
§ You may ask: Is that quite fair? I must be fair. It is not enough for me to say that it appears to be fair to those who look on and listen here and in other countries. The test, if I am to make my argument good, is this: Is it true? Some of you may ask, what about the medical services, Approved Societies, children's allowances? Of course there is a "smell" of progress in these, but they are not the plan, nor are they in themselves even a programme. To make medical services available to all—and I concede that that is easier to say than do—would, of course implement the promise of "adequate" treatment made in the Insurance Act three decades ago. To remove the dependence of benefits on the finance of Approved Societies would remove the biggest barrier to equal and 233 sufficient benefits; to provide in cash and kind for all children would remove one of the greatest causes of poverty, and one of the biggest deterrents to the larger families that the nation so urgently needs. How and when are even these things to be done? Where is the programme, where the time-table, where the administration?
§ More than that. These reforms are not the plan, the plan to prevent want. That is what Beveridge means, the prevention of want. That is the core of the discussion, the test of honesty and purpose, the central idea which the Government must either accept or refuse. They cannot simply agree and pass on. Have they accepted the prevention of want as a definite commitment, as definite as the defence of the realm? The plan is greater than the sum of its parts. There may be, there will be modifications, revisions, differences of opinion and action about the details of the plan, but there can be no compromise about the prevention of want. It is a Yes or No matter. Even if the Government have accepted 70 per cent. of the Beveridge proposals, taken point by point, saying: "We will do all we can having regard to financial and other considerations to put it into practice some time," they must still stand or fall by the answer to this question: Is the prevention of want, a definite commitment and charge on the Budget and national income—Yes or No? Are the Government prepared to say that the nation's wealth must be applied to guarantee the prevention of want as well as the defence of the realm and the payment of the National Debt in the same category and on the same footing? That is the crucial question—Yes or No?
§ If the answer is No, there may still be welcome reforms, piecemeal advances, but there will be no plan, no Beveridge. That is the answer to those who talk about agreement in principle, the acceptance of 70 per cent. in principle, medical services, Approved Societies, children's allowances in principle. Reforms, yes, valuable reforms, welcome reforms, important reforms, but not the plan—not what Beveridge means to the people of this country and the watching peoples of the world. If the answer is No, hope is slapped in the face. Is it No? So far, my Lords, it is. They say, in general, 234 that there can be no financial commitments, and in particular they reject, or rather they have not accepted as necessary, the subsistence basis for all benefits; they have insisted on limiting the duration of benefits, though want and need have no time limits; they have refused the subsistence target for old age pensions. They have shown in these particulars, and by their cautious reserve and the conditional manner which indicates their attitude of mind, that they have not accepted the core of the plan, its linch-pin, its pivot, its central idea, the idea that makes it a single plan, the prevention of want as a necessary prior charge. They have not said Yes. They agree in principle, but they can promise nothing. That is their answer to the zeal and hope of millions in this country, to the eager questioning of other countries, to the challenge of this generation.
§ Why have they refused the core and central idea? What are their reasons? In the first place, they argue that the Beveridge plan is based on the assumption of high if not full employment, which they hope to achieve but they cannot be sure. Of course, they cannot be sure. But the plan is not based on the assumption of full or even high employment. It is based, as Sir William Beveridge has made quite clear, on the maintenance without deep and grievous depression of only moderately good employment. He allows for an average rate of 10 per cent. unemployed in the industries already covered by insurance, and 8½ per cent. over all. That means an average over a period of years of a million and a half unemployed. There is nothing very Utopian about that. If we cannot make plans for the future for an average of not more than one and a half million unemployed, the outlook is grim indeed. That is no good reason for the Government's attitude. Then they say they cannot commit themselves and their successors in an uncertain future. Constitutionally, of course, they cannot. Any Parliament can undo or reverse the policy of its predecessors. But actually they must commit themselves, or government becomes impossible and reconstruction a fiasco. What about defence, what about agriculture, housing, education, fiscal policy? All these must be planned ahead over a period of years. Commitments must be taken. The truth is that the sinister implication of the caveat is 235 that it damns the Beveridge Report and all reconstruction before it starts. Here again Beveridge is at once a symbol and a test.
§ Then they go on to say: "We do not know whether we shall be able to afford it." Here again is the crucial question: Is the prevention of want accepted as a first charge like national defence? We do not say that we do not know whether we shall be able to afford defence. We know that we must. Would it not be somewhat ironical that we should recognize that we must find money for defence but have doubts as to whether we can find money for those things which make defence worth while? Of course there is a financial problem. We cannot afford everything. It is a question of priorities. We must reduce taxation. The cost of defence and debt will be higher, but the prevention of want is a prior charge equally with defence and debt. Sir William Beveridge, in his Report, calls it a diagnosis of want. His proposals add up to a plan for the prevention of want or they are nothing at all. That is why we say that, however many of the details they may have accepted, in principle, the Government have not accepted the plan. A critic has called it a plan for the redistribution of income, not for the prevention of want. It is both. It is a plan for the prevention of want by the redistribution of income. There is nothing new in this. It is an accepted principle, and has long been, of the Social Services. The Beveridge Plan is not a revolution but a consummation, a rounding off. After generations of trial and error the goal is in sight—the prevention of want by a single, consolidated, universal, economical and efficient plan. If the plan is refused then a generation of effort and experiment is undone, the continuity of British tradition is denied and broken, and the continuity of hope and enthusiasm cast away.
§ There are questions to which we do not yet know the answers. Here are some; I ask them now. I have given notice of them to the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack, and I beg for replies that are clear and unambiguous. I want to ask him this. Is it the Government's intention to give prevention of want A1 priority in the post-war world? In other words, do the Government 236 recognize that the application of the national income in future must be limited by four conditions instead of three—by the prevention of want as well as by adequate defence, payment of debt, and adequate and regular investment? If the answer is in the affirmative it can be afforded. It is all a question of choice. Then I ask, Will the Government now that they have had a further opportunity for reflection create at once a Ministry of Social Security instead of just another powerless Co-ordinating Committee? A Ministry of Social Security is the keystone of the whole Beveridge arch. Its creation is also the test of whether the Government mean business. Are men and women still to be expected to bring themselves up to subsistence level by voluntary thrift through the costly means of private insurance? The right use of voluntary thrift is to carry men and women beyond subsistence level, not to bring them up to it. Then what of the private interests? Do the Government consider that industrial assurance in its present form is consistent with covenanted burial benefits? Is industrial assurance to continue without a measure of effective public control? I ask these questions which I deem important, and I trust the answers may be given with the precision of which, when he wishes, the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack is a master.
§ I draw to a close, and you may ask what it is we really want. We do not ask for more than is possible. We do not ask for the detailed programme. But we do ask that the plan may be accepted now. Next, the plan—modified and revised no doubt in many particulars—must be implemented in successive, continuous stages, starting now. We are prepared, of course, for consultations and deliberations, discussions and procedure by stages. But the people want a sign, and the Government have it in their power to give a sign and an assurance—acceptance of the plan now, beginning of the programme now, which means a Ministry of Social Security now and the start of legislation this Session. Really the Government cannot spend these days of crisis and opportunity just trying to forecast the financial and economic weather of the future. They must take thought for the morrow. But, as it has been written: "He that observeth the wind shall not sow: and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap." That is the fear—the 237 fear that the Government's faint words have planted in men's hearts, in the hearts of fighting men and men at work. Where there should be courage and hope and faith for the future there is fear that there is to be no harvest for all their efforts and afflictions, for all their ardours and endurances. The Government have to-day a second chance to lift up these hearts as they deserve. There, clamant, is the challenge. What is the response? I beg to move.
§ Moved, That there be laid before the House Papers relating to the Beveridge Report.—(Lord Nathan.)
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, like the noble Lord who has just spoken, I do not propose to deal on this occasion with any of the specific proposals of the Beveridge Report. We have not got any legislative measure before us. This is not the Committee stage of a Bill or even a Second or a First Reading. This is a preliminary discussion which would naturally deal with broad lines of policy. Should this House support the principles and aims of the Beveridge Report and regard it, not merely as a goal to be attained in some more or less distant future, but as an object to bed pursued with resolute determination as an immediate object? Before coming to any conclusion on the general merits of the scheme, there are three initial questions which must present themselves before any considered judgment can be given. The first is, what is likely to be the effect of a gigantic measure of this kind upon the national character? Will it have in any degree a demoralizing influence, undermining self-reliance and self-respect and discouraging thrift? Secondly, are these proposals just in themselves—just as between man and man, and just as between class and class? Thirdly, are they likely to prove financially practicable, or will they impose an undue burden upon the national resources? It is to those three questions that I propose to address myself and to invite your Lordships' attention.
The first is the influence upon the national character, and that is perhaps the most important of all; for if that goes, all goes. Will it undermine the sturdy self-reliance of the individual, and remove the incentive to thrift? I submit that nothing really undermines self-respect and self-reliance more than undeserved destitution, insecurity of livelihood. When great 238 numbers of working people find themselves the sport of vast economic forces, trade cycles and the like, beyond their understanding, and infinitely beyond their control, before which they are as helpless as a man before a flood or in an earthquake, it is that which creates despair amongst great sections of the population, and makes them abandon hope that any small savings which they are able to make will really be of ultimate service to them. Nothing conduces to self-reliance more than confidence, and that the worker, no matter in what grade of society he may be, should feel that he has a stable basis. The workman should feel that he has, in any event, an assured minimum. We had this question raised when old age pensions were first introduced by the Government of Mr. Asquith. It was said that they would undermine fatally the thrift of the people; but now, a third of a century afterwards, we have the heartening achievement of the National Savings Movement, showing that the thrift of the nation has been carried to a pitch never previously imagined.
It must be remembered that it is only a national guaranteed minimum which is in question. The whole sphere between the minimum and the maximum remains open for personal effort, and its reward in greater comfort and in material wellbeing. To suppose that men are industrious and thrifty only under the threat of hunger and penury, and when they are driven by the whips of need and fear, is a profound error. It is true that safeguards have always to be observed against a minority who will abuse and take advantage of any provisions of this order. The danger of claims for excessive sickness benefit is always the bugbear of every insurance scheme; and it may be that giving more generous allowances to the unemployed may, to some degree, tend to lessen the mobility of labour and thereby make more difficult the overcoming of periods of depression. But no one for those reasons would now wish to repeal the measures of insurance that we have for help both against sickness and against unemployment. The right course is surely to adopt careful, and indeed strict, measures of control, rather than merely to say that these abuses may arise and therefore we will take no action.
The second question—the question of whether it is just as between one individual and another and as between class 239 and class—brings us to recall that a modern civilized community must, in matters such as these, be dealt with as a whole, and not merely as an inorganic, anarchic collection of individuals. This question, again, was very controversial at one period in our history. When national and universal education was introduced in 1870, there were many who said: "Why should I, as a ratepayer and a taxpayer, be called on to pay for the education of other people's children?" That was a common argument in those days, but no one would advance that argument to-day. Similar considerations apply in these other branches of social action. The Beveridge scheme does, of course, involve interference with the existing distribution of the nation's wealth. It does so avowedly and deliberately. But is it for that reason unjust? That depends on whether you regard the present distribution as just, and as not to be altered without committing injustice. Often we do not see the wrongness of conditions to which we have been long accustomed; but when in a calm hour we regard the terrible extremes of wealth and of poverty in this country, and the unfairness of the working man, perhaps after a long training in his trade, getting an income of possibly £5 a week, and sometimes a precarious income at that, while another man, without working, has an income of £100 a week or more, it cannot be denied that our present social system is, in those characteristics, indefensible on ethical grounds.
Nor can these inequalities and extremes be redressed by means of charity. In total, immense sums are given voluntarily year by year by the philanthropic benevolence of the people of this country. Yet the evils remain; they cannot be coped with by that method. There is also this further injustice here, that, while some are generous and help to bear the burden, others give nothing and escape their fair share. Only when legal compulsion is brought in can a measure of justice be achieved. Many of your Lordships are closely connected with great industrial enterprises, and we all know that every important company has its own pension fund for its employees, maintained by contributions by the company itself and by their own contributions. No shareholder objects to that; no one objects to these allocations, year by year, being made prior to any payments devoted to 240 dividends. It is recognized that this is an equitable and a wise expenditure. If that is right in the case of a single company, it would be quite right, if it were possible to do so, to amalgamate all these pension funds over the whole field of industry. But then the question would be asked: "Why should industry alone pay for these pensions? Are not the trading, the professional and the rentier classes benefiting from industry?" The right view would clearly be that if it is right for one company, and if it is right for all companies together, equally it is right for society as a whole; and that can be done only through Parliament, by a scheme such as this. I would remind your Lordships that the Atlantic Charter, which has been endorsed by all the United Nations, states in its fifth clause that one of the purposes of post-war policy must be—I quote the actual words:to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field, with the object of securing for all improved labour standards, economic advancement and social security.This, I venture to say, is the clearest example of a sound practical method for ensuring social security and with it a greater measure of social justice.
I turn to my third question. Will this impose too heavy a burden on the national finances? On more than one previous occasion I have drawn attention to the fact, to which I venture to think insufficient importance has been attached, of the enormous growth of the national income during the present century. In the first years of this century statisticians were agreed that the total national income was of the order of £I,600,000,000 a year. Last year a White Paper presented by the Treasury estimated that it was not £I,600,000,000, but £6,000,000,000 a year. That, of course, is partly due to the fact that the pound has not the same value now as then, and that the general level of prices is higher. But the fact remains that, even making the most generous allowance for that factor, the national income has increased enormously during the last generation. And the sums required in this case are a small fraction of the actual increase in the real annual resources of the nation. Furthermore, let it be observed that the great bulk of the money that is to be expended under the Beveridge scheme is not a new charge; it is merely an amalgamation of a great number of already existing insurances and 241 expenditures by a multitude of different funds, public and private. The new charge that is to rest upon the Exchequer, at all events in the opening years, will only be of the order of one-seventh of the whole of the expenditure distributed among the people under the Beveridge scheme.
And let it be remembered that while it may be, indeed is, a very considerable charge upon the national resources, on the other hand it will strengthen our economic system. Almost all this money spent in these small sums, weekly or monthly, among the whole mass of the population quickly passes into current use and encourages the sale of consumers' goods. Thereby it helps to give stability of employment. These are expenditures upon commodities of a staple character—a steady demand; and the more of the national wealth that is spent in that way, the more stable and secure remains the market for labour. Last week we had in this House a very interesting and important debate about agriculture in which we discussed what should be the future policy of Parliament in relation to that great industry. It is certain that in the end the prosperity of British agriculture must depend in the main upon the demand for agricultural products from the town population; and if our working classes, who make up, of course, the bulk of the population, were able to pay for greater quantities of milk, and the high grade products of agriculture generally, than hitherto, the effect in the long run must be very considerable, and bring a substantial benefit to our great food-producing industry. Furthermore, the scheme would add to the wealth of the country by avoiding a great deal of present waste in money and in labour. The most conspicuous instance, of course, is the funeral grant or, as the Government prefer to call it, death grant. Where under the present organization of industrial companies and societies the cost of administration is no less than 7s. 6d. in the pound of the benefit, owing to the high expenditure upon the present house-to-house collections, week by week, under the Beveridge scheme it is estimated to be 6d.
There is a further point. It is suggested that this scheme, by imposing greater charges upon the community generally and upon industry, would raise the cost of production, and therefore handicap our export trade. But it is a 242 commonplace now to say that it is a profound error to imagine that low standards of living mean cheap production. It is quite untrue to suppose that the lower the wages and the longer the hours of labour, the greater the command of the markets of the world that may be obtained. It is not the peoples at the lowest standards who are able to capture the world's markets, but those who are the best educated, the healthiest, the most efficient, and those who have some security for their lives, and freedom from the harassing anxiety of hearing the wolf always scratching at the door. It is that freedom which lends the greater happiness in work, and therefore the greater efficiency in trade and commerce. So that my answers to the three questions—Is this scheme likely to be harmful to the national character? Is it in itself unjust? Does it lay an undue burden upon the economy of our community? any one of which, if the answer were in the affirmative, would prove a barrier to further action—I think may be given in each case definitely in the negative.
The further study that I have been able to give to this Report confirms the first impression that it constitutes the finest body of proposals in the sphere of social reform that has been presented to the country in our time. We all of us indeed owe a deep debt of gratitude to Sir William Beveridge for having undertaken this task, and a meed of admiration for the manner in which he has fulfilled it. I had the advantage of his presence as a colleague on the Royal Commission on the Coal Industry years ago, so I was well aware from that time of his outstanding abilities. As I said at the outset, I am not proposing to deal with any particular points in the scheme. Where there is divergence between the Report and the Government's own proposals the points at issue no doubt deserve and will receive serious and mature consideration. But, so far as I have at present been able to study them, I do not think there is any one of the Government's suggestions which is an improvement on the proposals in the Report.
The only other matter to which I would invite your Lordships' attention is that which was dealt with mainly in the speech of the noble Lord who moved the Motion; that is to say, the present situation with 243 regard to this Report, the procedure that the Government propose to adopt, and the effect of that situation and that procedure upon the political position in this country in general. We know that great anxiety on these matters has been expressed in the other House. The Government indeed had a very great opportunity and—I am sorry to have to say it—did not take advantage of that opportunity. If they had said in cordial language: "This is a magnificent scheme. The whole of the strength of the Government will be thrown behind it," they then might have gone on to say: "No one considers the Report as necessarily having plenary inspiration. On some minor points we dissent, on others we need time for further consideration. No one, certainly not Sir William Beveridge, asks that we should fix an appointed day when all these schemes should come into effect, but we will do our utmost, with all possible energy, to carry the Report as one great whole substantially into actual operation." Their decision would have been received in Parliament and throughout the nation with great acclaim. We should proudly say that we are able now to offer to our soldiers, sailors, and airmen, to our Dominions, to our Allies, and indeed to our enemies, the spectacle of a powerful, far-seeing Britain, even in the full stress of this terrible conflict, girding herself to reform her old social system so as to make it a worthy body for her mighty soul.
But the speeches of the Lord President and the Chancellor of the Exchequer were, we regret to remember, couched in a very different tone—in a tone of doubt and hesitation. They gave the impression that the Government expect to effect certain changes, changes of great importance—to provide children's allowances, a national medical service, funeral benefit, and some other reforms—but that they did not really expect to be able to put through the scheme as a unified whole, to be carried out within a time to be foreseen, and that the Government considered it was only honest to let Parliament and the country understand that that was so. The Home Secretary put a somewhat different aspect upon it, but one does not know whether the Home Secretary or the Chancellor of the Exchequer will ultimately decide the policy of the Government in this regard. One of the best of the ordinary proverbial sayings of the people is "Where there's 244 a will there's a way." It is not always true, but it is very good as a working rule. It is certainly very much better than another phrase in frequent use and which, with all respect to Lord Baldwin, who was fond of quoting it, I deprecate as a guide in life, and that is the saying of Robert Louis Stevenson, "It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive." In this matter the people, I believe, are determined to arrive, and it is useless to say "Let us begin to travel hopefully." "Where there's a will there's a way," but if the will be doubtful and hesitating we shall soon find that the way will be obstructed and blocked.
We deprecate Party discussions, but political Parties are facts and they act as units. The Labour Party have declared themselves whole-heartedly behind the scheme. The Liberal Party also, through their small representation in the House of Commons and through their organization in the country, representing some hundreds of constituency associations. I hope we shall hear from some of your Lordships what is going to be the attitude of the Conservative Party. Those of us who were members of the Asquith Government remember only too well how, in 1912, the whole weight of the Conservative Party was thrown against the insurance measure of that year. A certain unpopularity which it attracted on account of its novel compulsory provisions was seized upon for Party purposes. The Government lost a series of by-elections fought on the question of national insurance, in others our majorities were reduced, and on the Third Reading in the House of Commons there was a Division on the strictest Party lines. If that Party had succeeded then, would they have rendered a service to the country? If they now set out to whittle down these proposals, will they be rendering a service to the coming generation?
Certain pleas are made for delay. It is said that we cannot foresee what will be the financial position at the end of the war. A complete cataclysm is possible; but that is no reason for postponing all preparations until we know exactly what the financial situation is. We can frame and pass the necessary legislation now with the intention of proceeding with it unless there were such a cataclysm; and if that came about more things would suffer than this one scheme. Secondly, it is said that Sir William Beveridge himself declares that his scheme is only likely to 245 work successfully on the assumption that there is no mass unemployment, and it is asked how do we know now that there will be no mass unemployment when the war ends. But Sir William Beveridge does not for a moment suggest that we can delay preparing the scheme for full operation until we are completely assured that there will be no mass unemployment. How is it ever possible to be quite fully assured that there will not be, at all events for a period, some degree of mass unemployment? If it were to occur, here again much else would go besides the success of the Beveridge scheme. Lastly, in this connexion, it is said that we should wait to see what other nations are likely to do. Ought we to handicap our own industries, it is said, in international competition by laying upon them this great burden if other countries are free from similar burdens? There, again, that involves the error of thinking that to refrain from legislation of this character is an economic advantage. This country was a pioneer in the Factory Acts, in the Mines Acts, and to some extent in education, and these measures which were denounced by the faint-hearted as being handicaps to our industry in foreign competition proved ultimately to be a help in giving us a lead in capturing the trade of the world. In any case, it is impossible to wait until we can be assured of general international action throughout the world. Let us put aside, then, these pleas.
The immediate test, as has been stated by the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, is the question whether a Ministry of Social Security is to be created now. That is described by Sir William Beveridge as one of the main proposals of the Report, and to my mind it is essential. The Chancellor of the Exchequer gave arguments against it. He said that a new Ministry would overlap other Departments. He said again it would rather retard than help the preparation of these measures. These sentences recall very vividly, to my mind, debates in this House during the Chamberlain Government before the war when some of us were pressing again and again for the creation of a Ministry of Supply. I well remember how Lord Zetland and other spokesmen for that Government pointed out that it would be a great mistake; it would introduce friction among the various Departments concerned, and it would involve delay rather than rapidity in the strengthening of our armaments. 246 In that way we lost two precious years in providing aeroplanes and other armaments which were needed. Precisely the same point has come up in this House during more recent days in connexion with the Ministry of Planning. Again and again we urged that a Ministry of Planning should be set up, and set up at once. The Government found all sorts of pleas why that should not be done, and said the matter could be much better handled by a Council of three Ministers. The Council was set up, other expedients were adopted, and they failed. Again in that matter we lost two precious years.
Now for the third time we have the same controversy, and the Government tell us that they contemplate not a Ministry but possibly a Statutory Board. That was said by Sir John Anderson. But the Statutory Board is not to come into operation now, and for the time being he proposes, to use his own words, to put the burden of preparation on the existing Departments, together with a small central staff of experienced people. When he was asked under whom these experienced people should be put, he answered "Under the Minister without Portfolio." The Minister without Portfolio—a ridiculous title which I shall never cease to criticize until it is abolished—is already charged with a whole collection of postwar problems. Town and country planning and planning in general are also under his survey, and now the Uthwatt and Scott and Barlow Reports are reposing, so far as the public are aware, in the pigeon holes of his office—the office of the Minister without Portfolio but not a Minister without pigeon holes. Is it now proposed by the Government to put under the Minister with Pigeon Holes, to give him a better title, the task of pressing forward with this great scheme? People ask: "Do you want really to create, in these days, yet another Ministry after all the new Ministeries that have been set up?" Well, the State now having a much larger share in our national life, the organization of the State must expands, and the Constitution must adapt itself accordingly. Some of these new Ministries may prove to be only temporary during the war, but some of them must be continued. These new Ministries for Planning, for example, and for Social Security are essential to the effective working of the national system, and the Constitution must adapt itself.
247 About 200 or 30o years ago the governing body under the Crown was the Privy Council. It was found that that was too large a body, and a Cabinet was set up within it to carry on the day-by-day work. That at first was viewed in many quarters with great suspicion. Now again the Cabinet has become too large for the effective day-by-day conduct of affairs, and there has been created an Inner Cabinet. During the war it is called the War Cabinet, but when the war is over I am quite convinced that the Inner Cabinet must be formalized and continued as the normal centre of our political Constitution. That indeed was recommended, as your Lordships will remember, by the Haldane Report of 1918 on the machinery of government. The Cabinet as a whole may still meet on comparatively rare occasions. The Ministers who are not members of the inner circle are, of course, summoned whenever matters relating to their particular Departments are concerned. Incidentally I would mention as a detail that as a matter of fact the number of new Ministries need not be actually increased, because the Ministry of Pensions could be absorbed into the Ministry of Social Security; although the new Ministry would, of course, be on a much vaster scale than the Ministry of Pensions, for it would be handling hundreds of millions of pounds a year and dealing with many problems closely affecting the life of the whole people.
There is thus much reason for urging that a Ministry of Social Security should be created now. It would be a symbol to the country and to the whole world that this matter is being taken seriously, and that someone is charged with the public duty of pushing it through. Otherwise opposition would gradually spring up, and the scheme may be lost in the obstructions which it will have to face. The National Insurance Bill of 1912 had behind it the zealous, enthusiastic and energetic advocacy of Mr. Lloyd George, but now apparently the only protagonist of the scheme as a whole is Sir William Beveridge himself. This is a matter which does touch the successful prosecution of the war, for the confidence of the people in their system of government is vital to success in a great struggle of 248 this character, and among the masses undoubtedly there is a very qualified confidence in the present Government in this matter. There is a widespread and deep suspicion that, after this war, they will again have proved to have been following illusions. It may be unjust, but the feeling does exist that the Government are not in real earnest in this matter, that they are fumbling, and unless that feeling is removed the political effect is likely to be serious.
As victory becomes more sure and nearer in date, as the great peril through which we have been passing grows less, the pressure which welded the nation together into a political unity will inevitably be relaxed. Already it is seen that the by-election truce is being strained. For my own part I deeply deplore it. There are many independents who present themselves at constituencies, and it would be much worse if the truce were ended and there were open conflict in the constituencies between the three principal Parties, especially in the effect upon the Government themselves and upon their cohesion that must necessarily ensue. The prosecution of the war is undoubtedly the first consideration of all. Even if the Government were to fail in the matter of the Beveridge Report or town and country planning, or any other domestic issue, and if they succeeded in the war, then the Government ought to be maintained in spite of its domestic failures; and I believe that that would be the view of the Liberal Party. Therefore I earnestly hope that the Government will take such steps as will help to restore the political cohesion of the nation.
After all, they are entitled, on many points in this connexion, to great credit. They did appoint Sir William Beveridge as the Special Commissioner to report upon this matter with broad terms of reference; they have accepted the principle of universal and uniform insurance, a national medical service, and children's allowances. I would beg them with my last word to-day, to reconsider their decision with regard to the establishment of a Ministry of Social Security. That is widely regarded as the real test of their sincerity and resolution. That is the one thing necessary at this stage to restore and maintain political unity. All your Lordships will agree that to maintain 249 that political unity is vital for victory in the war and to prepare the way for a Fruitful peace.
§ LORD LANG OF LAMBETH
My Lords, after this matter has been discussed for three days in another place and after the very illuminating speech by the noble Viscount to which we have just listened, there would seem to be very little left to say and that little perhaps not worth saying, but as one whose whole life has been concerned with the welfare of the people and as one who has given some degree of study to this Report, I cannot be altogether silent. I am the more inclined to break my silence because my successor as Archbishop of Canterbury has been prevented by indisposition from speaking here to-day, as doubtless he would wish to do. Happily it is not necessary to go into the details of this Report, or indeed to discuss its general principles. Everything that I myself feel about it has been said much more ably by the noble Viscount.
I might only perhaps add one thing to what he has himself said when he was speaking about the effect of this plan upon the national character—namely, that my experience, once very familiar with the homes of our working people, is that what really does sap their initiative arid energy is lack of hope and the conviction that, whatever they may do, sooner or later through causes which they cannot control they may find themselves in want, and therefore they are more inclined to drift along in a listless and helpless way. It will make all the difference to them if they can feel that whatever happens normally they will have the basis of at least a subsistence income on which they can build. As to the effect on their own thrift, I know as a matter of fact that what will induce them more than anything else to save and plan for their future will be the knowledge that they have a substantial foundation on which they can build. I might here perhaps not unfittingly bring in an authority as witness. If there is one society in this country which has steadily and in spite of much misunderstanding borne witness to the principles of individual thrift it is the Charity Organization Society. Its administrative committee, I think it is worth noting, has definitely said that it gives its whole-hearted support to the principles of this Report.
250 But I do not propose to follow in these matters the noble Viscount. I can only in one word say that after giving the Report as careful study as I can, I have come to the conclusion for myself that I can give it, as a whole plan, my most warm approval. Having said that, possibly some of your Lordships might expect that I should join the body of critics who consider that the Government have shown a most reprehensible attitude towards this great matter. They have accused the Government of being dilatory, hesitant, lacking in enthusiasm and the like. I want to say at once that I am not one of those critics. Indeed, I find it rather difficult to understand why it is that all this controversy has been aroused, and why the dust is flying so thick all over the country. I have no brief for the Government, as they know, but in this matter I only ask for a little dose of sense and reason.
After all, of what are the Government accused? Delay. Surely a period of two and a half months is not too long for a responsible Government to take in regard to one of the most complicated and weighty matters a Government ever had to consider, and to pay heed to all its implications. Caution. Surely there is ample need of caution. I will riot yield to anyone in my admiration of the Report or in my gratitude to its author. I consider it one of the greatest State documents of my time, and I believe it registers an amount of conviction throughout the country that no public question that I can remember has done. Indeed, I would call it both an epoch-making and epoch-marking document. Though I say that most sincerely I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, that you can expect the Government to treat it as an inspired and infallible document which does not demand careful consideration in every detail. The noble Lord referred to the Beveridge Report in such a way as to suggest that there was a mixture here of Papal and Scriptural infallibility which in another sphere might have united Christendom. I am not prepared, with all my admiration, to consider the Government absolved from a degree of necessary care and deliberation. Consultation. Sir William Beveridge himself said that on certain matters there must be further consideration where necessary—on the health services, in relation to voluntary insurance societies, and the 251 like. I do not think there can be any accusation of dilatoriness in that respect.
Finance. That is not of course the most vital matter, but it is one that a responsible Government must very carefully consider. The Report itself suggests that the rates of benefit, a very important matter, must be financially determined when the prices that will be obtaining at the end of the war are known. Beyond that, is it very unreasonable that the Government should keep to themselves the right to review their proposals when they have reached the stage of legislation and before they are presented to Parliament, in order that they may judge the commitments to which on that situation, which has not yet occurred, they may be committed? There is the preservation of international peace, the cost of which no one knows at present. The relief of all those devastated countries will mean an immense sum, and other commitments, agriculture, export trade and the like, may be most serious. I think it is only reasonable that the Government should say they will bring legislation before Parliament, but before they definitely submit it, they have to make a review of the whole situation as it may be then. I agree with the noble Viscount that there is no kind of reason why there should be any pessimism in that matter, and I am bound to say I think the Government might have shown much more courage and optimism than the Chancellor of the Exchequer showed in his speech.
After all, the Report points out that in the period 1913 to 1938 there was a great loss of overseas markets and investments, very great difficulty about our shipping and prolonged periods of mass unemployment. Yet during that time the standard of living steadily rose and the real wages of our people were better in 1938 then they were in 1913. Why should we have any despair about the future? It may mean some redistribution of national income, but, as the noble Viscount has shown, surely the national income can stand a great deal more of public charge than it has yet sustained. I cannot help adding—I hope it is not superfluous—that I do not think there can be much fear about the national income when we read that in 1941 (I think that was the year) the totalisators at the dog races received no less than £38,000,000. That is the 252 kind of thing that makes one realize that there are reserves in the public which have not yet been tapped. But I have always felt that the new idea of a community, which is what we ought to aspire to and I am not ashamed to use the old word, is "All for each and each for all." All for each in the sense that the whole community ought to be ready to make its resources available for the welfare of the poorest and the humblest; and its double, each for all, that all should regard their employment, their business, their labour as a service which they owe to the whole community. If that idea spreads, and it is spreading, I feel very little doubt that this redistribution of the national income will be possible.
Yet, although I am not in the least afraid of the bugbear of finance, I submit that any Government is entitled in reason to be sure of the ground where it stands. I wonder if I might remind your Lordships of some words of authority about the man who sits down to build a tower and does not count the cost. If he lays the foundation and is unable to finish it, he will be mocked at by all who pass by. When the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, put a pistol at the head of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack and said: "Now or never, declare are you in favour of the prevention of want or not," what answer can the noble and learned Viscount give except that the whole Government are pledged to the Atlantic Charter which makes that a fundamental requirement of the future? I am myself content to leave it there, remembering what the Home Secretary said in another place, that of the twenty-three main proposals of the Report, the Government have accepted all except one, and that is one about which the Report itself allows a certain amount of reconsideration. The Government have postponed for further consideration six of the proposals and the rest they have accepted in principle. I think it is hardly fair of the noble Lord to maintain that there has been nothing said that in any way binds the Government.
I am not speaking for the Government, but I cannot conceive any Government that, having gone so far, do not feel themselves bound in honour to go further. I ask myself how it can be said that the Government are not in earnest. How comes it that such an impression, if it be so, has prevailed? And I must say I can 253 only come to the conclusion that it is due to the way in which their case was presented in another place. I have the greatest possible admiration for Sir John Anderson, both for himself and for his services to the country. His speech was like himself, honest, straightforward, able, and it was entirely free from adornment. But there are occasions when some adornment, some glow of emotion or imagination is of psychological value, and this surely was one. In any case what he said did give that impression of the Government's not being whole-hearted in this matter. It was not removed—even it was rather deepened—by the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was not removed by the admirable speech of the Home Secretary, and I am sorry to say that it seems to be spreading in certain important quarters of public opinion throughout the country. I consider that nothing could be more disastrous than public controversy of this kind arising on the very first occasion on which any attempt has been made to implement the Atlantic Charter with all that that has meant.
I think that almost anything is worth doing to prevent that controversy becoming wider and more acute. So I ask myself, is there anything that it is possible for the Government to do to allay this most important misconception, if so it be, this controversy, which has certainly arisen? I think there is, and in saying this I have a grievance against the noble Viscount who has just spoken, for he has anticipated the main thing which I wish to say. In other common words he has taken the wind out of my sails. I consider, greatly daring no doubt, that the best chance which the Government have of putting themselves right with the country and removing this most regrettable controversy is to appoint a Minister of Social Security now. And here again I would call attention both to the precedent of the Ministry of Supply, and particularly, and perhaps in rather more detail, the recently appointed Minister of Town and Country Planning. Your Lordships will well remember that that appointment was pressed for but long delayed, and when the appointment was made it was greatly welcomed. But mark that the Minister has been appointed before the Government have come to their conclusions about what he has to do; before any stage of administration or of legislation has 254 been reached. He has been appointed mainly to prepare. He has three Reports before him just as this suggested Minister of Social Security would have the Beveridge Report. The Minister of Town and Country Planning has for consideration the Barlow Report, the Uthwatt Report and the Scott Report, and he has to apply himself to these without the advantage of any statement of what the Government's intentions really are. I maintain that the appointment of a Minister of Social Security now is analagous to the appointment of the Minister of Town and Country Planning.
The Home Secretary has himself said that on this matter there is to be, or has been, appointed a special staff in order that it may concentrate upon the work of preparation. It has rightly been asked by the noble Viscount who is to be the head of that special staff. It is no good putting it on the back of the Minister without Portfolio. Apart from the description which the noble Viscount gave of him, he seems to me to be increasingly becoming a sort of Mother Hubbard with so many children that he does not know what to do with them. If all matters that crop up are to be put on the back of the Minister without Portfolio, then Portfolio or no, he will break down. What more natural than that such a staff should be under the charge of a Minister of Social Security and work with him on the task of collaboration, concentration and consultation which is so necessary as a preliminary? The Minister would be responsible either for initiating certain consultations or for taking them over from Departments concerned. He would not be creating, at this stage, a new Department, which is really quite an unnecessary affair, but he would be keeping in touch with all the Departments concerned, and, to use that blessed word, co-ordinating them together. It may be said that we do not want to create another Minister or another Department. But the trouble is that already there are so many that again and again we find the best schemes go wrong and get water-logged when transferred from one Department to another and from one Committee to another. What is wanted is someone to be in charge of the preparation of this important subject, who will see not only that matters are considered and decisions taken, but that decisions are actually carried out.
255 I am quite convinced that there is a great deal that such a Minister could do, even at the present time. Then, having concentrated with his staff upon the work of preparation, having got his legislation more or less ready and approved for submission to Parliament, he would be all the better able to take charge of any Department that would be necessary for administration. I hope that I have succeeded in showing that this Minister created now would not be, as the Home Secretary feared he would be, an empty eggshell with the title written above him. On the contrary, I hope that he would be discharging, at the present time, a most valuable function in regard to a matter of supreme national importance. I hope that the Government will not give their answer about this proposal to-day, or even to-morrow, because I think that it requires very careful and dispassionate consideration. I know that they will not be influenced by any amour propre. I am human enough to understand how difficult it would be, after having stated their opinion, to seem to go back on it, most of all in answer to any kind of public clamour. But the matter is too serious, as they will admit, for considerations such as this. There remains, and with this I close, what is surely the governing consideration, that almost any step is worth taking that is consistent with what is reasonable, to prevent this great matter degenerating into a public controversy. I feel very strongly on that, and I believe the Government can restrain that controversy if they will, because no sign, no step I can think of will be more likely to convince the public that the Government mean business and will see this great matter through.
The Government have a very great opportunity. The noble Viscount has spoken of the public interest in this matter. I have had something to do with public life for a great many years, and I can remember no occasion on which the convictions and feelings of the masses of our people were more united than on this. The Government will carry on their efforts surrounded by the expectations of the people aroused as never before. They are faced with the responsibility on the one hand of disappointing these expectations, or on the other hand of seizing the greatest opportunity ever afforded them 256 of taking this first step in bringing nearer that better order for the masses of our people which has always been one of our aims in this great struggle when victory has been achieved.
§ VISCOUNT DAWSON OF PENN
My Lords, in listening to the speech of my noble friend Lord Lang I could not help reflecting that what the Episcopal Bench has lost this House as a whole has gained. We welcome hearing what he has to say in his present position of greater freedom and less responsibility. Next, I should like to add my humble tribute of admiration to the Beveridge Report. It is a very fine piece of constructive thinking, well knit together and wonderfully expressed, and it has received a measure of public approval in this country which one would have to go far back to rival. The question which I am venturing to bring before your Lordships is that of the health services. I should have preferred to postpone this to a later date, but in the debate in another place family allowances and the hospital and health services were pushed to the front, and were blessed by no fewer than three Ministers of the Crown, leading, I am quite sure, to great activity within the Ministry of Health. It seems necessary, therefore, to make some statement which will show where the medical profession stands.
Sir William Beveridge, although stating in Assumption B what an important place the medical services will take under his scheme, specifically avoids saying what the scheme for those services should be; he leaves that, I think wisely, to the medical profession to handle. Dealing with Assumption B, I may remind your Lordships, the Report says:From the standpoint of social security, a health service providing full preventive and curative treatment of every kind to every citizen without exceptions, without remuneration limit and without an economic barrier at any point to delay recourse to it, is the ideal plan.The subject of that assumption has been considered by the medical profession on and off for many years. I may recall that after the last war one of the first things to occur was the setting up of the Ministry of Health. No sooner had that Ministry been established than the first Minister, my noble friend Lord Addison, in conjunction with that great civil servant Sir Robert Morant, decided to institute an inquiry into the medical services. The question was referred to one 257 of the new Consultative Councils set up under that Act, and the reference to that Consultative Council was:To consider and make recommendations as to the scheme or schemes requisite for the systematized revision of such forms of medical and allied services as should, in the opinion of the Council, be available for the inhabitants in any area.That reference is not fundamentally different from the problem which faces us to-day in relation to medical services.
I was appointed Chairman of that Council, and after considerable inquiry the Council made a unanimous Report. Considering the approximation of this Report to the problems which meet us to-day, it would not be amiss if I were to quote one or two paragraphs from it:The changes which we advise are rendered necessary because the organization of medicine has become insufficient, and because it fails to bring the advantages of medical knowledge adequately within the reach of the people, [so that] the best means of maintaining health and curing disease should be made available to all citizens.That was adopted unanimously, and was well received by the public at the time. It may be asked why it came to nothing. Unfortunately, my noble friend Lord Addison resigned, and that great public servant Sir Robert Morant died, and the Ministry of Health passed on to stony ground as regards matters of health and medicine. It became concerned, very properly no doubt, with questions of housing, and later with the dreadful subject of derating; and medicine was left in the desert. By that time political matters had also come to the fore. So that Report of 1920 was left in abeyance. Yet we can see, looking back, that the problem with which it dealt is substantially the problem which is being studied to-day.
What is being studied to-day was foreseen in 1920, and there is no material or substantial difference. Circumstances have changed, and no doubt a fresh study of this subject would lead to certain modifications. During the past two years the medical profession has been studying assiduously the problems of the replanning of medical services. I will mention three of the bodies concerned. There is the Medical Planning Commission, under the ægis of the British Medical Association and the Royal Colleges. On this Commission all branches of the profession have been represented—municipal doctors, 258 private practitioners, men interested in preventive medicine, and men interested in curative medicine. They have all gathered round the table, and the considerable degree of agreement which they have reached is remarkable. At Oxford there has been an active movement, which must not be confused with the pathological revivalism associated with the name of Buchman or the people who, when the wind blew and the tempest raged, disappeared from the scene of action and have remained absent. The movement to which I refer is a more sober medical organization, which has had behind it three leaders. One is Sir Farquhar Buzzard, the second is Lord Nuffield, and the third is Sir William Goodenough. The third body, consisting of King Edward VII Hospital Fund and the Voluntary Hospitals' Association, has also been studying this question, and so far agreement is substantial. I would like at this point, if I may, to pay tribute to the stimulation and the sympathy which have been extended by the present Minister of Health and his medical officers to our efforts and to the excellent spirit in which they have met us.
Assumption B refers to an ideal. An ideal is seldom attained at one stroke. One proceeds step by step from objective to objective, and the final attainment of an ideal is only reached stage by stage. The realization of our hopes as regards medicine must be gradual, but there seemed to be in another place the other day an idea that it only required about six weeks to transform the practice of medicine into something very different from what it is now. My suggestion rather is that we should go step by step, that we should do it by agreement between the different parties, and show both patience and statesmanship. When you come to think of how medical practice, not only as regards doctors, but as regards patients, is contained in customs ages long, fixed firmly in the habits of the people, involving not only their reason but their emotions and their feelings, you can by no rough hand suddenly dig it up and think you are going to replant it. We must go step by step, we must innovate greatly, but gradually. I believe the saying was coined by a distinguished member of the Labour Party, "the inevitability of gradualness."
259 There are certain matters, to which I will refer briefly, which are ready for tackling now and have been ready for a considerable time. The first is the great importance of bridging the gap, not only in theory but in practice, between preventive and curative medicine. These two branches have remained detached because of the historic differences in their development and growth. That detachment has been to the disadvantage of each branch, and an equal disadvantage to the public service. These two branches must be brought together. I put that as a first essential. Hospital practice and general practice must comprise the care of people's health, the furtherance of health as their chief objective, and, similarly, the medical officers of health must come out of their obscurity and come on to the staffs of the hospitals and meet regularly among their colleagues. And, even more important, we have so to alter medical education that the student from his early days is taught that the building up of health must take precedence of the cure of illness; that, in fact, a knowledge of one is necessary to the success of the other. It is our united desire to put health and its furtherance in the primary position, not only in the curriculum, but in the daily practice of the profession.
The second matter which can be dealt with now is to make the practice of medicine increasingly institutional. The reason of that is this. Medical practice is based on an increasing number of sciences. In the search for the truth it requires team work. Team work requires equipment, and teams are better situated side by side in a building equipped for the purpose than carrying out separate and detached efforts. If you once admit that team work is a necessity—and it is, if it is only for the economy of man-power and economy of cost—it is inevitable that institutional provision must increase. I will mention two instances which have a very promising future. The first is the provision of health centres in industrial organizations. Here there is a vast future of useful work. The principle is that of putting your practice where people assemble in groups. If you have inside an industrial organization a health centre equipped with its doctor and nurse, you have a rallying point for the employees in which they gather steady and increasing confidence and, more than 260 that, they get into the habit of coming there when they are feeling ill. If they are merely ailing, they are rapidly put right; if they are commencing a serious illness, they get all the advantage of early diagnosis and are sent off to places the most appropriate to heal them.
There is another movement which lends itself to immediate action, and that is a movement, which is likely to become national and on which we are at present at work, for the promotion of child health. The promotion of child health should take precedence of almost every other medical movement at this moment, because we want the children and we want them well. I am glad that the Minister is very interested in this. There are schemes of health, notably in London, which I hope will stand forth; as an example, a scheme in which the leading voluntary hospital for children's diseases will join hands with the post -graduate medical school, which will undertake the maternity end and the pre-natal clinics. That is a movement in which not only voluntary associations but the great municipal organizations of London will take part. We hope, and we have confidence, that that child welfare scheme will stand out as an example which other parts of the country will copy.
What I have said implies the necessity of a pattern of hospitals, health centres, and clinics allotted to every area. They must be of various grades, allotted according to the needs of the population, distributed, in the same way as the schools are distributed, where they are most needed. The areas over which those hospitals and clinics must be distributed must be large but not too large. They will have to include several major local authorities if they are going to serve their purpose well. If they are too small, you cannot have an adequate service, or you can only have it at excessive cost. These regions must be of adequate size, and the plan is that at the head of each region there will be a key hospital, and wherever possible that key hospital will be a teaching hospital. These hospitals will consist, in part, of local authority hospitals and, in part, of voluntary hospitals, and it will require patience and statesmanship, to which I shall not refer to-day, to bring them together into what the Minister has described as partnership and close co-operation.
261 One thing is clear to me, and that is you cannot construct a great service of this description except under the skilled guidance, of the medical profession. Medicine has become, and becomes more every year, a complex art based upon an increasing number of sciences, and it is idle to think that any scheme of hospital service could be run unless there is a vocational body always ready at hand to give advice to the final administrative authority. There is no disputing the fact that the administrative authority must have the last word, but it requires a vocational body close at hand to advise it before it takes its final decision. If you look at it from a professional point of view, it is not to be expected that a great profession is going to be moved about by, and take its orders from, laymen. Under the agreed control of Parliament the medical profession will seek and demand self-determination in the same way as the Bench, the Bar, the Church look after their affairs without let or hindrance. It is well for it to be known that, just as we are taking as a profession prime responsibility in putting forward these proposals, so we shall expect to take an equal part in their guidance. For myself, I have the firmest belief that we shall evolve out of the present situation stage by stage, a new era of health and healing. It can be done, and it will be done by agreement. We therefore have to recognize it must be done stage by stage.
I return for a moment to the vocational body. If you take the big teaching hospitals of England—hospitals with an experience, in some cases, spread over centuries, which have inherited great traditions and handed them on from one generation to another—the plan of management of a voluntary hospital is that the medical council acts as the vocational body and the lay board as the administrative body. It has been the custom for years for the medical staff to take the initiative in policy and to submit proposals to the lay body, but the lay body has the final say.
Now, so far as local authority hospitals are concerned, vast as is the progress which they have made in the years of their existence—we can have nothing but admiration for what they have done and for the, fine service they are putting up—in some respects they have to develop more. They have not yet, in many instances, 262 sufficiently thrown off the Poor Law tradition. The medical superintendent of a local authority hospital is supreme, not only in the matter of administration, but in the matter of treatment. He has technically the power to overrule his professional staff. What does he do? He reports through the medical officer of health, in effect, to the Health Committee, which is a body of laymen who may know little or nothing about the subject with which they have to deal. In some way or other that will have to be corrected. In my judgment the statesmanlike way of doing it is to set up an advisory body which will always be at the right hand of the final administrative authority.
I thought of dealing with the question of finance, but the question of finance, in my judgment, will settle itself as time goes on. I believe we could begin before the Government have made up their minds on the Beveridge plan. Before we know whether we can obtain the necessary funds for this service, we could go on as we are going, the local authority hospitals and the voluntary hospitals working side by side, each with its own management, but coming together more and more, and agreeing more and more on matters of common policy; the voluntary hospitals receiving ad hoc grants during the intermediate period, and maintaining to the full their contributory schemes, on the principle that it is wiser to stick to the old love until you are quite sure of the new. No doubt, if the Beveridge scheme finally comes to full fruit, as we hope it may, then it will be easy to review the position.
One more point which specially concerns the profession of medicine. We have a difficulty that few callings have. We have to make it clear that, in order to do good planning, we must have collectivism, but while we have collectivism for fabric we must have, I was going to say, one hundred per cent. individualism in personal relations. We have to combine these two rather difficult opposite points of view. I would remind your Lordships that man, whatever his political colour, is ultimately individual. I might in passing quote the finger-print system of Scotland Yard. Is it not remarkable that under that system you have a separate fingerprint for every individual? If man is individual like that in his anatomy, what must he be like in his mind and 263 soul? One thing every medical man has to learn is that there is no standardized type of disease. As the great French savant said, "There are no diseases, there are only sick people." We have then that problem—individualism in personal relations. If you are going to have individualism in personal relations, you must keep your doctor individual, with the power to penetrate and grasp what his patient thinks and feels.
Indeed, we have to be careful that, while we are doing our best to plan medicine aright, we do not mechanize it and allow it to become a standardized performance. The doctor too, in his training, has very diverse sides of learning to master. He has to keep abreast of scientific knowledge and, more important than that, he has to cultivate a scientific approach to his problem, but, having clone that, he has further to relate that knowledge to an infinitely varying human nature. I would suggest that if human nature were not infinitely variable what a dull world this would be. In the greatly changing conditions of the modern world, doctors will need not only knowledge but understanding if they are to guide bodies and minds along the road of health and content.
§ VISCOUNT BENNETT
My Lords, when the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, spoke of 1912 I recalled that thirty-one years last January I was in this city for business for a week, and during that time I cannot think that any conversation was complete without discussion with respect to the measure to which he referred. That we are now dealing with this more complex problem is a matter of great satisfaction, I am sure, to those who at that time found themselves in opposition. It may be said that new occasions teach new duties, but time makes ancient good uncouth, and I feel quite certain the noble Viscount rejoices in his mind that those who then opposed him now agree. My first point, therefore, is that this Beveridge Report is not a Party document, and that the problem with which it deals is a problem on which all Parties are agreed. That is a distinct advantage. No longer is it a question between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party, or the Socialist Party; it is a question upon which all are agreed. We are agreed that we must have social 264 security in this country. There are two reasons for that. One of the reasons is a part of the attitude of men towards their fellow men which I think is much higher than is sometimes indicated, and the second is that under our democracy it may be very difficult for men to find themselves in Parliament unless they support social security. That has had a very marked effect upon the situation, as everyone who has studied it knows. Therefore, we are agreed as Parties that we should have a measure of social security.
Experience has taught us that there were defects in the present system in this country, and that it was desirable not only to survey the whole situation but also to make recommendations that would involve improving the existing conditions. The Committee that was appointed was directed, I observe, by the order of reference to make a survey of the existing national scheme of social insurance and allied services, including workmen's compensation and to make recommendations. When this Report was completed it was published by the Government and was made available as few Reports have been of such size, nearly 300 pages, at a very low price having regard to the cost of paper. A précis of it was also published by the Government, and they did everything in the world to bring it to the knowledge of the people of this Kingdom. I say that in order that there may be no possible charge made against the Government that it endeavoured to keep this Report back and not permit it to be known by the people of the country, for I have never seen such a measure of publicity given at the instance of a Government as has been given in the case of this Report.
The Report is predicated upon three assumptions. There is a definition of what social security is, and I think that is of the utmost importance because we should know just what Sir William Beveridge was dealing with when he made the Report. I find that he defines it more than once in the Report itself, and that definition is of great importance from the standpoint of what follows. Shortly put, not only does he deal with want but with squalor, with disease, with ignorance and with idleness, and he defines social security in paragraph 409 thus:Social security as used in this Report means assurance of a certain income.265 That is the purpose of the Beveridge Report—assurance of a certain income. That paragraph goes on:The Plan for Social Security set out in the Report is a plan to win freedom from want by maintaining incomes. But sufficiency of income is not sufficient in itself. Freedom from want is only one of the essential freedoms of mankind. Any Plan for Social Security in the narrow sense assumes a concerted social policy in many fields, most of which it would be inappropriate to discuss in this Report.There is a recognition of the necessity of studying by the Government any plans. But as they are important, who is to discuss them, who is to give the necessary information with respect to them? The author of the Report does not say. He says "it would be inappropriate to discuss [them] in this Report." Therefore it falls upon the Government to make the necessary study with respect to those matters. These are the assumptions:The plan proposed here involves three particular assumptions so closely related to it that brief discussion is essential for understanding of the plan itself. These are the assumptions of children's allowances, of comprehensive health and rehabilitation services, and of maintenance of employment.With that definition of Social Services before us I think there is no difficulty in realizing how serious the problem is and how great are its implications. I have never found great difficulty in arriving at conclusions, but I have always found the greatest difficulty in appreciating the implications of a decision, and giving effect to the implications of a decision. The adoption of this Report in its entirety at this moment without adequate knowledge of what those implications are would, I submit, not be wise; and that is the all-important question that has to be considered at the moment.
The next question in dealing with insurance matters has to do with assumptions. There must always be assumptions when an actuary is dealing with matters of this kind, and there are certain assumptions, as Sir William Beveridge points out, of great importance. The Government made available the entire actuarial service of the country to Sir William Beveridge. I do commend to Lord Nathan the desirability of reading that actuarial report. I do not think he would indulge in some of the language he used this afternoon if he had read that report carefully and realized what its implications are. Undoubtedly he has read it, and as a solicitor no doubt he read it 266 carefully; but I am saying that he did not state the conclusions carefully.
§ VISCOUNT BENNETT
I do not think there is any doubt that the Government have read it. That is shown by the speeches from the Treasury Bench in another place. We have, then, the actuarial report which is the foundation of the estimates made by Sir William Beveridge. That answers completely the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Nathan. Sir William Beveridge said it is impracticable to deal with this question if unemployment is counted by the million or hundreds of thousands. The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, puts the figure of unemployment at one and a half millions. That is what he said it might be on the percentage indicated. If on the percentage indicated the number of unemployed is one and a half millions it follows without question that in Sir William Beveridge's view it is impracticable. I will read the passage to your Lordships. It is at page 163 in paragraph 440. The second sub-paragraph says:… payment of unconditional cash benefits as of right during unemployment is satisfactory provision only for short periods of unemployment; after that, complete idleness even on an income demoralizes. The proposal of the Report accordingly is to make unemployment benefit after a certain period conditional upon attendance at a work or training centre. But this proposal is impracticable if it has to be applied to men by the million or the hundred thousand.He says that he is going to substitute training against unemployment, thereby putting those concerned to some profitable use. Then he says that is impracticable if it is to be applied to men by the million or the hundred thousand.
If that is so, the next question that I suggest should be considered concerns the figures of cost. Some people, judging from speeches which have been made, overlook the fact that this country gives about the finest service in social security of any country of which I have any knowledge. The sum expended by the State, that is by the taxpayer, is very large. Money for the Social Services has to be found from three sources to-day—from the insured, from the employer, and from the Exchequer through the taxpayers, which means the employers and the employees in another capacity. That is the 267 position to-day and it is the position that it is proposed to continue. If you turn to page 204, paragraph 74, you will find a statement of the present social insurance schemes and allied services together with their cost to this country. The estimated expenditure in 1945 under the present schemes is £415,000,000 and the estimated expenditure under the Social Security Plan is £697,000,000. That is worthy of important consideration, I submit.
Sir William Beveridge cannot be charged in any sense with trying to be unduly harsh upon capital, for increased contributions are to be made by the insured. At page 207 of the Report, in paragraph 83, you will find a table showing that contributions from insured persons under the present social insurance schemes and allied services amount to £69,000,000. That is only 16 per cent. of the total. Under the new scheme the contributions of insured persons will be £194,000,000 or 28 per cent. of the whole. As compared with the present schemes, the plan proposed would mean an increase in the insured persons' contributions of 12 per cent. That is the net effect. The employers' contributions, including payment for industrial disability, are to-day £83,000,000, being 19 per cent. of the total, but under the new scheme the employers' contributions will be £137,000,000 or 20 per cent. of the total. Thus, the employer will pay an extra 1 per cent. while the insured persons will pay an extra 12 per cent. When we are told that this scheme is so widely popular, I can only say that I have met many insured persons who have told me that, when they discovered that they would have to pay a large increase, they were not so very anxious to have it passed. They may or may not be accurate in their attitude of mind, but here is a Report which says they will have to find 12 per cent. more of the money than they do now. Under the present schemes the Exchequer finds 61 per cent. of £432,000,000 and under the new scheme the Exchequer will find 5o per cent. of £697,000,000. That is the financial side of it.
There is another paragraph in the Report to which I should like to draw your Lordships' attention. It is paragraph 458 on page 171. That says:There are yet others who will say that, however desirable it may appear to reconstruct social insurance or to make other plans for a 268 better world of peace, all such concerns must now be put on one side, so that Britain may concentrate upon the urgent tasks of war. There is no need to spend words to-day in emphasizing the urgency or the difficulty of the task that faces the British people and their Allies. Only by surviving victoriously in the present struggle can they enable freedom and happiness and kindliness to survive in the world. Only by obtaining from every individual citizen his maximum of effort, concentrated upon the purposes of this war, can they hope for early victory. This does not alter three facts: that the purpose of victory is to live into a better world than the old world; that each individual citizen is more likely to concentrate upon his war effort if he feels that his Government will be ready in time with plans for that better world; that, if these plans are to be ready in time, they must be made now.How many spectators coming into this House to-day would realize that we are in the midst of a war in which the whole of Christian civilization is at stake? I ask that question without being impertinent. Is it realized that we are still face to face with a life and death struggle? Is it realized that grim casualty lists must still come back to us here? Can we for a moment predicate victory upon the fact that one of our Allies is now driving the invading enemy out of his country?
I should like to adopt every word which was said yesterday in this House by my fellow-countryman, Lord Beaver-brook, as to the peril that threatens this country. I am a disinterested, detached person, and as I read it, as I see it, as I understand it, we should be thinking of one thing and one thing only at this time, not part of the time but all the time. We should, each one of us, be thinking: "How can we win this war and what can I do to make it more certain that the war will be won?" Certainly to talk in probabilities and in vague generalities, and even in platitudes, does not help to win this war. And it is certain that unless the war is won all plans for social security are useless. It is perfectly nonsensical to talk about schemes of social security unless you have a country to live in and a people amongst whom to live. See what is involved in the next point, in that we talk about the war as though it were something far off and on the sort of assumption that, "Oh, we're doing well enough and someone will win it for us if we keep on long enough." The President of the United States stated our 269 objectives quite plainly after the Casablanca "No surrender" conference recently. He has said that he will not be content until Allied troops march through the streets of Rome, Berlin and Tokyo. That was his statement; that is our objective. How can we attain that objective by placing reliance upon others to achieve it? How can we attain it unless we throw all the effort we have, all the strength and purpose we have and all our ability into the scale to win the victory. There is one thing more. I have heard frequently in this House to-day the use of the word "will." We know that where there is a will there is a way. But our first will must be the will to victory, after which you may have your other wills, possibly. But you cannot have the other wills unless you first achieve the will to victory and achieve it within the terms of the objective which has been set before us by the Prime Minister and the President of the United States. I think we are all agreed as to that.
I come within the category—as I assume your Lordships have realized—of those who believe that the Government have done their duty by the people in this country, and by the people of the world, as I shall presently indicate, not only by saying: "We adopt in principle this measure of reform," but by already dealing to some extent with the matter in that we are spending some £415,000,000 a year to maintain our Social Services. Towards that sum the Exchequer pays a substantial contribution as also do employers and taxpayers generally. The insured pay some £69,000,000. And we are doing this despite the war. We are doing the things which the noble Viscount, Lord Dawson of Penn, has referred to with respect to health. I speak from personal knowledge of this for I have seen the improvements which have taken place in this country in matters of that kind during the thirty or forty years that I have been coming here. As I say, I know of them from personal observation.
Then, my Lords, let me ask this question: Can we hope to get along unless we have the will to victory? I ask it again because to me it is an all-important question and everything else is subsidiary to it; everything else falls from it. When the time comes that we have achieved victory, then will be time enough to consider these matters. Now I am going to 270 put this to my noble friend Lord Nathan. Suppose he had a client come to him to tell him that he was in great difficulties, struggling for his financial life, but that he had had put before him a report from an expert—a single expert, one man. The plan detailed in the report involved large expenditure, how much he did not know. The expert's proposals were based on assumptions; he could not speak with authority or certainty. Now would Lord Nathan advise the client to go on and embark on that business? Would any man advise his friend to go on in circumstances such as that? Yet that is what the case is here.
The Government are confronted on the one hand with a Report. It is a Report made by one man; he is a most eminent man but he has no knowledge of the checks and balances that have to do with political life. He has no training in that school of thought. He deals with the matter magnificently, as has been said, but on the basis of saying: "if only you will give me enough money I will distribute it in a way that is satisfactory to everybody. It is true that that money must be got from sources of which I cannot speak with complete authority, and I do not know what the conditions are going to be when you have got it. But I know that if you give me the money I will get results." I say that almost anybody could undertake to do some think like that without much difficulty. If you will give me enough money I, myself, will see that the people have an income which is quite satisfactory to them. The difficulty is the getting of the money. Where is it coming from? Here is a country in the greatest financial straits which it has ever experienced. It is probable that at the end of this war the dead weight of debt of this Kingdom will be in the vicinity of £20,000,000,000. The first charge against that, Lord Nathan suggests, should be this Report. The first charge is keeping our credit and paying the interest on that debt which would amount to something between £500,000,000 or £600,000,000, and I am going about the country, and other people are going about the country, asking people to lend their hard-earned and carefully saved money to the State on the assurance that they are going to be paid interest.
We are told that the first charge upon us is going to be to deal with some hypothetical 271 story, some sentimental story, about freedom from want. Nothing better illustrates the weakness and the strength of democracy than what takes place with regard to the Social Services. The strength of it in this House should be that we are able to discuss the financial side of them as a cold-blooded and unsentimental proposition. There is not one of your Lordships who has not the warmest place in his heart for his fellow men. There is not one of your Lordships who does not desire to see his fellow men independent, enjoying the amenities of life, with everything that will make them happy. There is not one of your Lordships who does not take that view, but it is not consistent with the tradition of this House—though it may be different in the constituencies, where elections are fought —to support something on a sentimental basis alone. The existence of this Chamber enables us to take a detached and cold-blooded view—some may object to the word "cold-blooded," but it represents the facts—of all the pros and cons of this controversy.
Nothing is worse than that there should be controversy in connexion with the Social Services, after unity has been achieved. I believe, to speak frankly, that the controversy is attributable to lack of knowledge on the part of the people of just what is involved. They do not realize that this war for Christian civilization involves their lives and the life of this country, and that unless we can win the war it is a terrible waste of time to talk about social security, because there will be no social security if we do not win the war.
There are two or three considerations which induce me, as a detached person, to approve most strongly of the course which the Government have taken. First of all, both the Government Actuary and Sir William Beveridge indicate their inability to determine the issues upon which they both admit the success of the plan depends. I had some extracts from the Government Actuary's Report which I shall not read, but he says how difficult it is to forecast the future and to understand anything about it. Secondly, our credit is affected. Though my noble friend Lord Nathan referred to the fact that other nations would think that we lacked courage, my own view is that the 272 statesmen of other lands will say that we have a Government with courage and strength enough not to yield to the uproar of a sustained public opinion which originates in a misconception on the part of the people of what the real facts are. The nations of the world who understand what we are fighting for, who understand our obligations under Lease- Lend, for instance, who understand what our export trade has fallen to, and who realize the great balance against us in connexion with visible imports, will say that we have a courageous Government of men who are not thinking of their own positions or of the maintenance of themselves in office, but who are thinking of the ultimate good of the country which they serve. Let us go a step further. This involves, as I say, our credit. We have no gold standard in this country today, and our paper money depends for its value on the confidence that the other peoples of the world have in us and in our ability to discharge our obligations. What confidence would they have in us if, without mature thought and consideration, we plunged the country into an expenditure which no man can with accuracy predict?
Next, I suggest that this matter is important from the standpoint of our vast Empire. I know from personal experience the difficulty of getting settlement in some parts of the overseas Dominions, because people would lose their unemployment insurance and other benefits by going, for instance, to Canada. Is not it essential that we should have some understanding with the places to which the people of this country may go after the war, in order that there may be no diminution of the benefits they would receive by reason of their change of location? Would you not expect a farsighted Government to deal with these problems, and to take steps to see to what extent they can make arrangements which will make it possible for a considerable migration to take place from this country? The Report is based on the assumption that there are 47,000,000 people in this country. There is not one among us who does not realize that there should be many millions fewer than that. There is not one of us who does not realize that that is too large a population for this Kingdom. There is not one of us who does not realize that that population should be diminished by migration to other parts of the Empire, 273 where they are so much required, and where they can make homes for themselves. That problem, I think, ought to be considered.
I have one more reason, and it is a personal one. I wonder how many of us appreciate the stress and strain of office in these days. I found myself, perhaps unfortunately, charged with great responsibilities during the greatest period of depression that the world has known, and I find it impossible to convey the effect of the struggle and of the strain, nor shall I take up time in attempting to do so. I will, however, say this, that the men who are directing the destinies of this country at this moment are subject to a stress and a strain that it is impossible for even a medical man as eminent as the noble Viscount, Lord Dawson of Penn, to attempt to describe. What are you going to do? Are you going to ask them to slacken their will for victory by using part of their great brain-power and their capacity in dealing with this problem of the Social Services? How can we tell that the diversion of their minds to this matter will not so influence them and so slacken their efforts that disaster will come to this country? We should endeavour by every means in our power to strengthen the hand of the Government, to the end that every man Who is responsible for administration and policy at this time shall be in a position to feel that he has supporting him the whole of the people of this country. I was glad to hear the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, say what he did in that respect, I should have expected him to say it. It is the duty of the Liberal Party to support the Prime Minister and the war effort at this time, notwithstanding the fact that there may be disagreement on some issues. There must be no diversion of the Government's effort, which must be concentrated on one purpose only; yet you will divert it if you give effect to the plans which have been outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Nathan.
I do not wish to detain your Lordships, but there is one other thing that I want to say. It has been suggested that we should create a Ministry of Social Security. It is my experience that in democracies there is nothing quite so bad as to hold out to the people hopes which are incapable, or which may be incapable, of realization. It is proposed that there should be set up 274 a Department of Social Security to deal with these problems and to push them to the front right in the midst of a war, diverting men's minds from the great problem which alone should occupy them. It is proposed to set up this new Ministry to push forward these schemes in their entirety, regardless of what conditions are going to prevail at the end of the war. How do you know what the conditions are going to be when peace comes? Sir William Beveridge says that this is a peace-time proposal, and it is based on the conditions which will obtain when peace comes. Can we afford, therefore, to ask for a special Department to be set up now—and to do what? In the first place, to hold out to our troops and to our people the idea, to use the language of one noble Lord, that the Government mean what they say, that they really desire to go ahead with the project. The Government have gone as far as human-kind should go if regard is had to the fact that there is a war on at this moment.
I put this illustration to your Lordships: My house is on fire—and certainly that can be said about this Kingdom, this Empire of ours, at this time—my house is on fire; all the appliances in the community have been brought to bear upon it—the fire engines, the hoses and the water. We are pumping the water on just as hard as we can, and we call in neighbouring communities to help us to destroy this conflagration, and they come and help us. And in the midst of it, when I am worried and worn with all the care and responsibility of trying to save my home, and seeing that everything is done that can be done to ensure that end, there comes to me a gentleman who says, "I want to talk to you about insurance on your Death Duties." "What!" I say. "Yes," he says, "I have a very fine kind of policy, and I am sure you will be very greatly concerned in getting adequate insurance against your Death Duties." "Well," I say, "I cannot talk about that now." "Ah, well, perhaps you can set up a department in your household which will consider this and drive it through." The details of it are, of course, unknown to me, and I say, "I cannot understand it just now, I am busy with this fire." What else would a man whose house is on fire say in circumstances such as those? And this country is on fire, the conflagration is about us. We have 275 called in the help of our neighbours, and to-day we are asked to divert the minds of the men who are working the pumps, the fire engines and everything connected with it from the single problem of putting out the fire, to consider the question of the insurance against Death Duties.
I say that we should not do it. We should not buoy men up with the hope that we are going to do something which we may not be able to do, which the actuaries say, "We doubt your capacity to undertake"—because that is what they do say. And I ask this final question: Dare we do it? Talk about doing something for the morale of our troops, something to inspire them with hope and courage! Let them know that we dare not plan the future when we know not what it may be: that we must go forward in the light of knowledge. And it is perfectly true to-day, as it was when Tennyson wrote it, that "Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers." Wisdom is a more subtle thing, and wisdom is required at this moment in dealing with this problem. I am sorry to have detained your Lordships. I could not refrain from giving my views with respect to the most serious problem that ever confronted this nation as a peace measure, because it could not be planned and put on the Statute Book for months if you had the best minds in the world working upon it, and nothing else. And there I leave it.
§ VISCOUNT SANKEY
My Lords, I must apologize for trespassing on your Lordships' indulgence after the many speeches you have heard, but I should like to place rather a different point of view before you from that which has been put forward by the noble Viscount opposite. The Beveridge Report is contained in two volumes of closely printed type. There are over 500 pages and about 300,000 words. It is clearly impossible to debate the whole of it at a single sitting. Permit me, therefore, to discuss briefly the main object of the Report, whether that object is desirable, and, if so" how to achieve it. The main object is soon stated. It is to carry out an experiment, now a generation old, to its logical conclusion. It insists that a minimum subsistence for the whole population is a proper first charge upon the national income. Thereby it frees the citizen from the spectre of want. It is the duty 276 of the State to defend its citizens against the aggression of external enemies; it would also seem to be the duty of the State to defend its citizens against the internal enemies of poverty, hunger and disease. It insists that children should not be a cause of poverty to their parents. It insists that the nation must organize a full service of medical aid, available for every section of the population, healthy, well-nourished citizens, as being as important for the State in peace as in war. It insists that old age shall be safeguarded against want, and it makes a modest provision to meet the cost of maternity and death. Is the object a desirable one? Whether you base your arguments on the claims of wise statesmanship or the claims of humanity—and both of them appeal to your Lordships—the objects of the Report must be generally approved. They are not extravagant, and they are not over-ideal, but they are simply an extension of social reforms regarded as inevitable. We should therefore welcome the goal which the Report places before us and do our best to see that it is reached as soon as possible, and by the best means possible.
Let me now turn to the third question: how to achieve it. No doubt there are difficulties, but nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome. It would be wrong to adopt the whole of it, or indeed any part of it, straight off without examination. It is the essence of our system of democratic government to reach our ends by free speech and open discussion and by insisting that national interests must prevail over sectional interests. Now if these objects are good, and if they are desirable, let us make a start. Someone must be in charge. It is no use entrusting bits of the task to different Departments. Unity of effort and administration is desirable from the first, and I welcome very much the speech of the noble Viscount who has just resumed his seat, where he said, "Don't overburden the present Ministers; don't distract their attention." I do not want to: that is why a Minister of Social Security should be appointed at once. He must resist undue delay and restrain undue enthusiasm, and to his Department duties should be gradually and from time to time transferred. The object of this Report is better left to national direction 277 It would be wise, however, to make some use of the knowledge, experience and machinery of those societies which have been performing some of the services for which the Report provides. These societies have been conducted by men of great ability and integrity, but their system appears to be open to the criticism of high costs, high charges and high profits.
Surveying the field as a whole, it is clear that the advantages of a unified social security are great and unquestionable, embracing as they do unification of contribution and unification of administration. It will, however, be necessary to see that the civil servants who are in charge are not hampered by traditions of red tape and methods more fitted to another age than our own. Comparing the present with the proposed system, it cannot be doubted that large economies may be effected by the adoption of the Beveridge suggestions. In answer to that important question, "Can we afford it?" the position of the State and the individual falls for a moment to be considered. As to the State, it has to be remembered that the proposals do not demand the full expenditure at once, as some noble Lords seem to think. The process is a gradual one. For some services—I am not going to read large extracts from the Report—the immediate bill in 1945 is only £86,000,000 more than at present. That will be found in paragraphs 28 and 282 arid Table XIII. Then it must not be forgotten that there is nothing in the nature of confiscation or a capital levy recommended. The plan merely calls for a contribution and a redistribution of a part of our national income. The additional charge on the National Exchequer in 1945 is only a very small fraction of what the national income may be expected to be in that year.
We must not, however, base our promises and our calculations upon war-time finance but upon peace-time finance. Do not forget, my Lords, that our national income depends upon two things. First, upon everybody working hard. There are duties to be performed as well as, and as much as, there are benefits to be received, and there are two sides to this Report. There is the question of giving and the question of receiving benefits. Secondly, national income depends upon our producing and manufacturing goods for export. 278 The population of our country cannot all live on the land. Our existence depends upon trading with our neighbours. Unless we can sell our produce abroad our national income will be materially diminished. With regard to the individual, it is doubtful whether the lowest paid worker can afford the contribution demanded of him. In my view the problem will not be satisfactorily solved until we have a national minimum wage, and it will never be possible to ensure the total abolition of unemployment, for many men are engaged in seasonal trades.
As to the contributions from employers and those with higher incomes, the question is not "Can we afford it?" but "Is it worth while?" There are some things which are imponderable, which cannot be counted, weighed, or measured, but which influence our lives and are well worth while. They are not to be found in tables of statistics, and are apt to escape the attention of those shallow political economists who solve their problems on paper and who, forgetting we are flesh and blood, have invented the "economic man," who never has existed and never will. The liquidation of human fear, of human anxiety, and human misery, the creation of a new order where happiness is companioned by content are well worth the extra contribution which we may have to pay and the sacrifices we are called upon to make. Lastly, it is urged that the adoption of the Report will destroy the incentive to work and will increase idleness. The author of this Report was not such a fool as to overlook this contingency and not to suggest a remedy. The remedy is provided in paragraph 131 where he says:Men and women in receipt of unemployment benefit cannot be allowed to hold out indefinitely for work of the type to which they are used or in their present places of residence, if there is work which they could do available at the standard wage for that work.The Report goes on to recommend a limit for unemployment benefit. In paragraph 442 it stresses the important point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, as to the value of maintaining the purchasing power of working people.
Let us examine for a moment the question whether the Report, if adopted, will abolish incentive and lead to large-scale unemployment. Will large numbers of Britishers prefer to shirk and elect to be idle at the expense of their fellow citizens? 279 I do not believe it. No doubt there are idlers in every country and in every section of society. But that fact should not deter us from carrying out a scheme to benefit thousands of our unfortunate fellow citizens. The overwhelming majority of Britishers would prefer to work at a proper wage than to do nothing and receive something to live on. To do nothing is forbidden by our pride as a nation and by our very nature. The real tragedy of life is to be thrown out on the scrap heap as unwanted and no good. Ask any man at the Front or any man or woman in the factories what is their chief anxiety. What do they really want when the war is over? From every one you will get the same answer—a job.
The Beveridge plan certainly postulates a policy of full employment. Mass unemployment will ruin the plan, but mass unemployment will also ruin Great Britain. To encourage industry and provide every man with a job is the duty and interest of the Government—not only of the Government, but of everybody in a position to help. It will mean work and self-denial by all, but not the blood, sweat, and tears which are winning us the war. Then will our mouth be filled with laughter. As we appealed to the patriotism of our people in the war, so let us appeal to their patriotism in peace. The example set by the King and Queen, the courage and skill of a great Prime Minister, the appeals and broadcasts by many public speakers both in and out of Parliament, and the silent sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of war workers and war savers have resulted in a war effort which has surpassed all our expectations. Let us continue these duties, and ensure that our peace effort will meet with equal success. This done, we shall prove to those who have worked so well and bravely for us that Great Britain is a country worth fighting for, and that those who have fought and died for her will not be forgotten.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT SIMON)
My Lords, we have listened to half a dozen very interesting speeches, and we have reached the time when the House expects to adjourn. None the less I must inflict upon those of your Lordships who have been good enough to remain some observations on behalf of the Government, though there will be a reply 280 at the end of the second day's debate by my noble friend Lord Snell, which will pick up matters not satisfactorily dealt with. I should like to begin by considering what is the spirit in which this great Report should be approached. According to the first speaker to-day, it is mainly to be regarded as an occasion for denouncing the Government. Lord Nathan, with much powerful rhetoric, said very little that could be described as a discussion of the plan. I think if anyone had been in the gallery and had not previously known about the plan, he would not have learnt much from my noble friend's oration, but he would learn a great deal about the shortcomings of the Government. Perhaps it is natural, after the storm there was in the House of Commons, that the Labour speaker here should take that line, but my noble friend will remember his quotation: "He that observeth the wind shall not sow." Indeed, my noble friend Lord Nathan went to such lengths that he seemed to object altogether to the Government saying that it agreed in principle." That was a grievance. A little later in his speech he declared that nothing had come out of the House of Common's debate except "disappointment, frustration and exaggeration." To do the noble Lord full justice, he went on to ask the question, "Is that quite fair?" and the noble Lord, Lord Lang, has replied: "No, it is not quite fair." And I think that is the general feeling of your Lordships.
What are we engaged upon considering? We are considering one of the greatest, most far-reaching, it may even be said most extensive, plans for social reform that has ever been promulgated. I do not quite agree with my noble friend Lord Bennett when he speaks of the approach to that plan by its supporters as sentimental. That certainly is not my feeling. I share the feeling in that respect of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. He and I, I think, are the two people in this House who, as Ministers of the Crown and as members of the House of Commons, saw the beginnings of these things. I well remember, and shall never forget, the criticism that was made at the time of old age pensions, and the resistance that there was in some quarters to health insurance on the part of honest and honourable people who doubted whether the thing could be done. I have myself taken a continuous interest in this subject 281 ever since, and if I may cap Lord Samuel's reference to Sir William Beveridge, whom I know very well, I would say that it was one of my earliest experiences as a Minister, during long months when we carried through the Unemployment Insurance Bill, when—I will not say I was helped by him, but was coached by him for many hours on many days as the clauses of that Bill slowly went on their way to the Statute hook. No man is a greater authority on this subject than Sir William Beveridge, and nobody deserves to be respected in regard to it more than he does. So far from feeling that I am indulging in sentiment, it is a real thrill of enthusiasm which fills me when I think of the prospects of enlarging and increasing the schemes with which he had so much to do in developing in earlier days.
It is all very well for rhetorical gentlemen to talk about the Government showing nothing but a dilatory and half-hearted interest in the subject, but that is a perfectly grotesque misrepresentation of the facts. We must really, all of us, whether we are members of the Government or Members of Parliament, face this, that this is a scheme which involves terrific issues, and whatever be the denunciation which is addressed to the Government about it, let me assure the noble Lord and everybody here that on this matter it would be utterly wrong for the Government to consent to be hustled, because there is this natural enthusiasm for an immense project. It would be utterly wrong and we should be completely abdicating our duty in the matter if we did so. What I will try to show is that is not by any means to be laid at the charge of the Government; that, on the other hand, as Lord Bennett said, while this Report only appeared at the end of last year—November I think—it has been the subject of, and is the subject of, intense Government consideration, Ministerial consideration, and official consideration, so that a thing has happened which has hardly ever happened in the history of a document of this sort—namely, that the whole strength of Government has been turned on to this matter, and declarations have been made in Parliament about it, within two or three months.
Next to the great width and importance of this proposal, it is necessary to remember another thing. This proposal and the class of 282 proposal involved in it, is only a portion of the problems in the post-war period; it is only a portion of what must be written down as post-war requirements, not merely post-war desiderata but postwar claims which cannot be denied. My noble friend Lord Bennett properly emphasized the enormous financial burden which will arise from the National Debt incurred as the cost of the war.
At this hour I will not delay by giving any more than the list of these matters which I have made. There is international security and the expenditure that is likely to fall upon the taxpayers of this country, because when the war is won it will rest with us more than with anybody else in Europe to keep order in Europe and prevent the possibility of the recurrence of these evils. It is no good talking about collective security and thinking you can get it on the cheap. We have before us an obligation in Europe which we must discharge, which is not a very pleasant prospect either to the Treasury or to the people of this country, if they are hoping that when peace is signed we are going to be relieved of a serious burden. Then restoration of exports. Somebody this afternoon said, this country had difficulty in maintaining its 45,000,000 or 46,000,000 of population. That is as may be. What is certain is that it cannot be done unless we can restore our export trade. That is quite certain. Here is a tremendous responsibility which rests upon us and upon the Government in particular, which is not nearly so spectacular as the things of which we are speaking now but which is a duty and an obligation that we owe to every man, woman and child in the country.
Let me go on with my list. It is not long ago that in this House we had during two days a most impressive debate on the urgent claims of agriculture. I think some of those who then spoke were prepared to say it was to come in front of everything, but at any rate it was to be regarded as one of the absolute essentials, and if there is a plan for opening our ports and sending out exports, and receiving imports in some degree at least, without finding large sums of money to maintain subsidies for agriculture, then I do not know what the plan is. Then housing. There have been speeches of the most eloquent character delivered in this House: I am not sure my noble 283 friend (Lord Nathan) is not one of those who have made them. I certainly understood housing came practically in front of everything else. How does anybody suppose you are to do that except by finding by some means enormous resources? Then I apologize for mentioning such a matter as education, but we are to have an education debate in this House in, I think, a few weeks' time. Is it all going to be shouted down on the ground that Beveridge comes in front of it?
Then we have had a most interesting debate this Session about civil aviation and the importance of our making sure that we really maintain in the world after the war what we ought to maintain in the matter of civil air transport. The whole of that discussion necessarily involved this proposition, that if necessary we must shoulder a financial burden. And Colonial development. What eloquent pleas have I heard in this House, extremely well urged from both sides, for increasing the contemptible sum of money which I found as Chancellor of the Exchequer for Colonial development. Demands were made for immensely larger resources to be spent on that most important purpose. Relief of the devastated areas. Many high-minded people feel in this country that we shall have to take a great responsibility about that. Then there is the provision of water supplies and planning and other things. The worst of these things is that they come up one at a time. If they only came up all together people would be in a better position to see in what relation they stand.
For myself I put social security very high. I am not seeking in the least to hide it, to drown it or to pile other things on top of it. But I am asking, with great respect, is it acting in the spirit of statesmanship, because we have a debate on this subject, to deal with the matter as though there was nothing else that called for expenditure at all? That is the reason why the Government say: "We must provisionally reach decisions as to these plans, but they must be brought under review and related to the financial situation when the time is reached for them to be put into legislative effect." What is wrong with that? My noble friend Viscount Samuel did what he seldom does. I think by accident he did not quite fairly or accurately represent the Government 284 case. Everybody knows that he is as fair a controversialist as there is in the country. If I heard him aright he described the Government as saying that they were pleading for delay and that they were asking to postpone consideration. If he looks at the Official Report to-morrow I think he will find he did use those words. The Government are not pleading for delay. I will tell your Lordships in a few minutes of what in fact is already being done. All we say is that if you want to put this tremendously urgent important problem in its true setting, you must have some regard to the fact that the Government are responsible over the whole field. It will be no excuse if the Government say hereafter: "We understood you were only interested in this one thing, and therefore we let others go." Demands will come forward about other things, housing, education and the rest, and they will have to be fitted in as best we can, putting, I quite agree, the subject matter of this great scheme in its proper place.
For my part I regard the Report itself as a really wonderful document. It is great not only in bulk, it is great in range, it is great in conception and perhaps what appeals to me most of all in its result, it is great in its simplicity. But before you can reach simplicity, you have a great deal of tangled and difficult country to get through. If we were going to discuss this without partisanship as practical people, I should have thought the first thing to do would be to say: "Sir William Beveridge has produced the most constructive scheme, but he warns us that his scheme cannot even be started unless three assumptions are fulfilled. He tells us it is not his business to decide whether these assumptions should be granted or not, but he warns us that this scheme is not possible unless these assumptions are fulfilled." I should have thought the first thing a reasonable critic would do would be to ask how the Government stand as regards these three assumptions. If the Government decided that they could not make them, that would be one thing, but if the Government decided that they could concede them, that would be altogether a different thing.
Let us see what are these three assumptions. The first is a system of children's allowances. I remember a debate here in the month of June last year when my noble friend Lord Southwood moved a 285 Motion on children's allowances. It was a most interesting debate in which noble Lords from all sides took part, and the subject of children's allowances bulked so large that for the time it seemed one of the really important reforms for which all were pressing. I made a speech for the Government, and one which showed clearly where my sympathies and the Government's were. Have we heard in the discussion of the Beveridge Report one single word—I will not say a word of gratitude, there is no such thing as gratitude here, but of satisfaction, at the fact that this first assumption of the Report is accepted by the Government and will be carried out?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am delighted that my noble friend did. Let me call attention to that still small voice. The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, had a word about it, but this was his word. He said about children's allowances that they had a "smell" of progress.
§ LORD NATHAN
I said it was a welcome reform. That is included in the smell of progress, but I went further and I made a very affirmative and approving statement.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am very glad to know my noble friend approves the smell. What Sir William Beveridge says in regard to children's allowances is to suggest an allowance of 8s. a week for each child after the first in each family, and 8s. a week for the first child too if the parent is in benefit and not in work. He says—it is a startling proposition—that this should be of universal application. There is no One in your Lordships' House who is a father of children who under this scheme will not be getting so many shillings a week. It is to be paid whether the parent is in work or not. It is to be paid on the assumption, and the proposition is in fact a most important one, that it will secure, or at any rate help to secure, that a man on wages is not likely to be worse off than the man who is on benefit. It is of essential importance in developing these great schemes that we should not create a position in which a man drawing benefit should be better off than when he was drawing wages. The Government have said that they believe, all things considered, the figure ought to be 5s. and not 8s. I may observe that 5s. was the figure 286 which I think was quite universally canvassed in your Lordships' House in the debate last June. It has been a standard figure. The Government say, moreover, that in determining what are children's, allowances, you must not limit yourself to cash, but have some regard to child welfare services—to school meals, to the provision of milk, to medical and dental care, and in Scotland, I think, the matter extends to children's boots. At any rate we shall be able to argue hereafter whether it shall be 8s. or 5s. But what is the good of talking as if the Government have not made a definite forward step when they have accepted this assumption and declared it in express terms in the House of Commons?
It is one of the great difficulties in connexion with this sort of subject that people tend to think of the main scheme without always appreciating the complications. This is going to be a complicated thing to arrange. Already there exists in our system children's allowances in quite a considerable variety of cases. There are children's allowances in unemployment benefit, but not in sickness benefit. There are children's allowances for men in the Forces, children's allowances in connexion with children who have been evacuated and evacuated schools. There are children's allowances in connexion with widows. So it will be apparent that you have got here a very complicated thing to put together. It can be put together and it will be put together, but a Government with responsibilities on its shoulders cannot just take a look at this and say: "Oh, that is so easy and simple, it merely makes a pleasant smell."
Then I come to the second assumption, which Sir William Beveridge again said was an essential. It deals with an enormous subject—the one with which the noble Viscount, Lord Dawson of Penn, has dealt to-day. Sir William states: "My plan cannot be worked unless we have a comprehensive health service." He requires a service covering the whole range of preventive and curative treatment, and a service which is universal in the sense that any one of your Lordships under this scheme would be entitled to the advantage of it without further charge. Anyone can see that we are dealing here with a pretty complicated subject. Viscount Dawson of Penn called attention to some of the complications to-day. There is, for example, the difficult problem arising out of the 287 relation between doctor and patient—a relation between two individuals, one of whom trusts the other because he knows that he has the ability and will to help him, while the second helps the other because he knows that person's idiosyncracies. On this matter of universal State services, when the Government go forward and in the matter of two months from the issue of this Report say: "We endorse that and we will work for that"—is that really to be treated as though it were a miserable half-hearted grumbling adherence? It is an immense proposition, and one which we have every intention of making good and carrying out, with the co-operation of those who can advise us best. I will say a further word about that in a moment.
But let me say this now. As we conceive the scheme it is not a scheme that will automatically bring to an end a medical man's private practice, and, as we conceive it, it is not a scheme in which the voluntary hospitals will have nothing to do. On the contrary, they can continue and they will have their part to play. It is very easy to say these things, but before we can work out this part of the scheme an immense amount of hard work has to be done in discussion and negotiation. Observe that while Sir William Beveridge says: "There must be a universal public health service or else I have no proposals in this Report to make," he does not say (because it was not his business to say), how this is to be secured. He merely says: "if you do not secure that, then the proposals I make have no meaning."
Now I come to the third assumption, which is one on which I, greatly daring no doubt, venture to think that my noble friend Lord Samuel was not quite fair to the Government's declared attitude. The third assumption underlying the whole scheme is "maintenance of employment." My Lords, every one of us must of course recognize that this must be an essential condition that must be fulfilled if any considerable advance is to be possible. For consider, the whole scheme, whatever the variations you make in it, would suffer shipwreck if, after the war, we entered into a prolonged period of continuous mass unemployment. That would break the finance of the scheme. The contributions which are to make the insurance fund are 288 only paid while people are in work. When mass unemployment occurs contributions drop, and with claims, especially on the unemployment side, multiplied enormously, you would at once have the balance which Sir William and the Government try to strike thrown completely out. I might add this consideration, for it is not without point, though it is not always remembered, that the yield of taxation, instead of rising, would sink.
I read that Mr. Greenwood in another place had produced the profound economic proposition that "pounds, shillings and pence were meaningless symbols." Very interesting! If indeed we could not be reasonably sure of the maintenance of employment and if we went into this scheme without some assurance of the fulfilment of this condition, then Mr. Greenwood's aphorism might have a very terrible illustration. Consequently the maintenance of employment is an essential condition. Sir William says: "You must be prepared to act on the assumption that the average rate of unemployment should not be more than about 10 per cent. of the classes now insured and thus mass unemployment avoided." I may say, though I am not sure that I am right, with regard to the reference made by Viscount Bennett to Sir William's paragraph in which he said that you could not carry out training if the numbers of unemployed amounted to hundreds of thousands or millions, that I had myself read the paragraph rather as a warning and as saying that in such conditions that part of his proposal could not be worked.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
On a fair reading I think we are asked to say whether we are prepared to assume that there should not be more than 1,500,000 unemployed. That is where I think my noble friend, Viscount Samuel, did not get it quite right. He suggested that the Government said: "How do we know that there will not be mass unemployment?" and he suggested that the Government, putting forward that question, were using it as a reason for postponing preparations for the scheme. Let me tell the noble Viscount, whose candour in these things we all understand and appreciate, that he is completely mistaken.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, I do not think I was referring to the Government then. I said that there are those who raise certain arguments of which I quoted three.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, it may be that it is I who have made a mistake, but this point ought to be made clear. My noble friend Lord Samuel does not suggest that the Government have asked any such question or made any such answer at all. On the contrary, the attitude which the Government take up is art extremely simple attitude, and I do not believe that it could be other than it is. They say: "Whether in the future we get mass unemployment depends very largely on international co-operation in trade, and on stable conditions at home. Manifestly the validity of the assumption that hereafter we are riot going to have mass unemployment cannot be mathematically demonstrated beforehand." Of course it cannot; it is trying to prophesy about the future.
They say: "We intend to make every effort to achieve and to maintain a high level of employment. Those who are qualified to speak on this subject"—that is, the experts; not all of us, I am afraid, and not myself—" know a great deal more about the causes of mass unemployment and the nature of cyclical trade than they used to know. We have very material reasons for thinking, therefore, that we are able to judge of the future better than we could judge at the end of the last war, or in those desperate days of the early thirties." They therefore say—and here I quote the exact words used in another place—…it has seemed to the Government that the acceptance or rejection of this basic assumption must depend, not on the prior demonstration of its validity, but on whether it is considered, not merely by the Government but by all concerned, to be something to achieve which we all intend to strain every nerve. On that basis, the Government adopt the assumption.I appeal to the good sense and judgment of the House. I cannot conceive of any responsible Government, however composed, which, when told that one of the necessary assumptions upon which the plan depends is this assumption that there should not be mass unemployment in the future, could do more than say what the Government have said.
290 So far from saying—and I am glad to know that my noble friend Lord Samuel did not wish to imply that the Government did say this—that that was a reason why they should not go on, the Government have said: "No, we make that assumption, with those qualifications, and we are going on. All we can add now is that in the nature of things it must take some time to work all this out, and if, before the time comes when we can present these proposals in legislative form, conditions have altered seriously for the worse, we must, in common honesty and in the discharge of our duty to the people of this country, tell them so frankly, and tell them to what extent the scheme must be modified." There has really been very little in the debate about these three assumptions which are the basis of the whole scheme, but I would call attention most definitely to the fact that the Government are entitled to have the credit of having faced those assumptions, of having made those assumptions, and of having declared their determination to proceed on those assumptions.
I shall not delay the House by dealing even with the major features of the scheme, but I should not like to fail to answer as well as I can the questions put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Nathan. Let me take them in turn. He very courteously sent me a copy. The first question has to me, if I may say so respectfully, as an old advocate, a slightly familiar air. It belongs to the genus which is classically represented by the question: "Have you stopped beating your wife?" It is this: "Is it the Government's intention to give prevention of want AI priority in the post-war world?" That means, in front of everything else. In other words: "Do the Government recognize that the distribution of the national income in future must be limited by four conditions instead of three—by (i) the prevention of want, as well as (ii) adequate defence, (iii) payment of debt, and (iv) adequate and regular investment. If so, it can be afforded; it is a matter of choice." In the first place, my noble friend's question seems to assume that the present distribution of national income is, as things are, limited to three conditions—the second, third and fourth which he named—namely, adequate defence, payment of debt, and adequate and regular investment. That is a very strange assumption to make, because it 291 is not so at all. The national income is at this very moment applied to many other services. It is applied to housing, it is applied to education, it is applied to a vast range of things. The proposition that there are at present only three conditions, and that the prevention of want is to be a fourth, has no basis in fact or in logic at all.
But I go further than that. Sir William Beveridge, as any attentive reader of his Report can see, uses "prevention of want" in a highly technical sense. I do not at all complain of it, but it is really necessary for serious students of this Report to note it. "Prevention of want," as a phrase in a speech or an article, might mean something quite different from the meaning given to it in the Report. In the Report "prevention of want" means a minimum income without any regard to the resources of the recipient. If my noble friend will at leisure turn to page 153 of the Report, he will see that that is made very plain. The Report says:Social security as used in this Report means assurance of a certain income.That is what it means; it means £2 a week, or whatever the figure may be.The Plan for Social Security set out in the Report is a plan to win freedom from want by maintaining incomes.I think my noble friend must have overlooked the following words.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I know, but I want to read it again with reference to the first question put to me, because the author of the Report says that freedom from want is not sufficient in itself, and yet the noble Lord is asking me to say that it shall have an At priority. The author of the Report says:Any Plan for Social Security in the narrow sense assumes a concerted social policy in many fields…He says, before that, that freedom from want "is only one of the essential freedoms of mankind," and he goes on:Any Plan for Social Security in the narrow sense assumes a concerted social policy in many fields, most of which it would be inappropriate to discuss in this Report.My noble friend, concentrating on the Report with great ability and intelligence, has for the moment blotted out the whole of the rest of the efforts for social progress 292 in this country. But the author of the Report says that there must, of course, be a social policy in many fields, "most of which it would be inappropriate to discuss in this Report"; yet the noble Lord asks the Government to say that it is this Report, and nothing but this Report, which is to have A1 priority and be put in front of everything else.
The matter becomes ludicrously clear if one turns to page 170. Sir William Beveridge never makes the claim for his Report which my noble friend is making. He says on page 170, in paragraph 456—and this is another passage which was read by my noble friend Lord Bennett—There are some who will say that pursuit of security as defined in this Report, that is to say income security, is a wholly inadequate aim.Lord Nathan is asking me to say that this should be our A1 object, but Sir William Beveridge says:Their view is not merely admitted but asserted in the Report itself.Then why should I give my noble friend the assurance that this "wholly inadequate aim" is to have priority in front of everything else? Sir William goes on:The Plan for Social Security is put forward as part of a general programme of social policy.Why should I give my noble friend a part, which he will pretend is the whole? Sir William goes on:It is one part only of an attack upon five giant evils.and he gives these evils as Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness. Now, squalor is to be met by housing. When my noble friend comes to reply I will ask him whether he excludes housing from this order of priorities, and, if not, where he puts it. It is not in the Beveridge Report—of course it is not, because Sir William Beveridge was not writing a housing report. Then, ignorance. I should like to know whether my noble friend excludes by his priority claims expenditure on education. It is not in the Beveridge Report, because it was not part of Sir William's subject. There is, therefore, a certain confusion in asking the Government to stand and deliver about this first question, because it simply is not true that the "prevention of want," in the sense in which those words are used by Sir William Beveridge, is the extent of our social duty and of our social needs.
293 Then comes the second question: Will you establish at once a Minister of Social Security? I apologize to your Lordships for delaying you at this late hour, but I want to deal with this carefully, because more than one noble Lord this afternoon has expressed the view that it would be better to establish such a Minister at once. Not only Lord Nathan, but Lord Lang, and Lord Samuel, amongst others, have expressed that view. But I am going to take the liberty of addressing to them an argument and asking attention to a few considerations which it is very easy to overlook unless indeed one has been very closely associated with these subjects. The question is this. Would the plan that we are seeking to implement be hastened and furthered by the prompt appointment of a Minister of Social Security? I understand that Lord Lang's argument was that it might have a valuable effect in removing mistaken impressions among the public, but I am dealing with it as a matter of practical administration.
§ LORD LANG OF LAMBETH
That is Precisely what I tried to do. I said it would be foolish to bring it forward as a means of enabling the Government to restore the position: it must be proved to have great advantages now, and I am sorry if I failed to convey my meaning.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
It was my fault. I am very glad to be put right. Anyway, it is all the more important that my noble friend should be good enough to consider these matters which I will mention. The greater part, certainly, of the Beveridge scheme, the substance of it, is a consolidation scheme, that is to say, it is not a new construction that is springing out of the bare ground without history behind it, but it is a bringing together, and a completing, a simplification if you will, of a whole series of services—health insurance, unemployment insurance, old age pensions, workmen's compensation, and so on. They have all been developed in the last twenty or thirty years, and they now are all elaborate structures in charge of separate Departments. Obviously their development and their consolidation in this greatly extended and widened conception of social insurance, will require, and the Legislature must at the proper time provide, a new organization. But what we have to remember is that there is an immense amount of work to be done before 294 we get to that point. My real doubt, with great respect, is whether those who have not had occasion to come into the most minute and close contact with the kind of work to be done always realize how enormous is the technical process to be achieved. And the question is what is the most effective way to get on with it?
There are large sections of this work—and it has already been undertaken in some instances—within the special charge of Ministers and Departments familiar with the subject matter. There is a profound fallacy in the idea that if you take a man, I do not care how able he may be, and call him Minister of Social Security, there immediately springs into his brain all the minute experience, knowledge, methods, technique which have been worked out in various Government Departments for years. I will give you three illustrations. Take first of all this comprehensive medical service of which Lord Dawson spoke, and the principle of which is accepted. Now, what does it involve in outline? It involves bringing in hospital services, institutional services, the part which the local authorities play, and discussion and negotiation with the doctors and with the doctors' representative organizations: it involves the future of medical practice. I think this Government contains many clever men, and I think that the Departments are admirably staffed with people of great technical ability, but the whole of that subject matter is in the grasp of the Minister of Health in this country and the Health Department in Scotland. If you were to say now, "Transfer that to someone"—I do not care who it is—" of the greatest possible ability," you are not going to save time. Other members of the Government cannot profess themselves to have that intimate acquaintance.
I think there is really, if I may say so, a great error in saying, "Oh, appoint a man, give him a name, give him a staff, and he will co-ordinate and watch over the developments." A time will come—and may it come soon!—when these discussions which are now going on (they have been going on for eighteen months) with the Health Department, will come to a point when plans will be more or less arranged, when it may be very necessary to see how this fits into the whole scheme. But, believe me, you are not going to gain time, you are not going to gain skill, 295 you are not going to gain wisdom if you say to the Health Ministers with reference to such a thing as the amalgamation of the medical services in a comprehensive whole, "Withdraw: you are merely Ministers of Health." And it will not make it any better by saying that you are going to create a special staff for the new Minister. If you are going to create a special staff for the Minister, where are you going to get it? You will get it from the Ministry of Health. You pick out the very eyes of the organization which is especially familiar with this matter and give it to another man to start over again. Observe that Sir William Beveridge does not treat the organization of a comprehensive medical service as a matter for the Ministry of Social Security at all. But nevertheless my illustration is a perfectly good one, because it shows that the Department in the State specially charged with the particular branch of the Social Service and engaged with the working out of the new plan, at any rate in the first instance, is the best qualified to deal with the matter in connexion with the new scheme.
I take the second illustration—this is not one of the preliminary conditions, it is in the scheme itself—workmen's compensation. As it happens, in my life I have had, I suppose, an exceptionally close contact with that question. I have twice been Home Secretary. In the past when I was at the Bar it was a branch of my practice which was not inconsiderable, and I know a good deal about the enormous complication of the details of that question. Where do you find in Whitehall really commanding knowledge of that subject, most impartially collected and studied? You find it in the Home Office. There are civil servants I could name in the Home Office who know this subject as nobody else does, and I am sure that you could not find anyone to be the new Minister who is better at it than the Home Secretary, and his Under-Secretary. Would it be right to say that the Home Office is not the Department to deal with this matter?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Because I happen to be standing opposite to my 296 noble friend, I hope he does not think that I am attacking him or being unfair to him. The suggestion is that there should be a Minister of Social Security now. I cannot believe that it is proposed that he should be a Minister with nothing to do. I cannot believe that he should merely paint his name up on the door of some requisitioned premises. He must have his duties to do and he must have a staff. It is the view of the Government that it would be a mistake to start that process now.
I shall take one other illustration. Take those matters that concern the Ministry of Labour. There are an immense number of questions in this Report which naturally touch the Ministry of Labour. The whole scheme involves at almost every point the views of organized labour and organized employers. I would most respectfully warn the House that it is a dangerous proposition to say that negotiations with the trade unions and with the employers' organizations could be better dealt with by setting up a new Ministry of Social Security. I believe myself that, attractive as is the proposal, it is not really calculated to carry things more quickly forward. The whole technique and machinery of this subject are found developed and at work in the Ministry of Labour. The progress in developing unemployment benefit and the like depend on the use of this skilled machine. How can it be wise to set up a new Ministry to be charged henceforth with this work?
I regret very much to be at difference with any of your Lordships. There is no prejudice in my mind about it, but from such experience as I have of administration, and from all I have learnt in this connexion, I really think that these illustrations show that instead of the nomination of a new Minister now being what Lord Nathan called the "test of whether the Government mean business"—it would be extraordinarily easy to satisfy that test—the practical and businesslike thing to do is to continue to use the existing Ministries, on their special topics, each dovetailing into one another. That would be fatal, of course, if it were the case that the different Departments and different Ministries were pulling against one another. That would be a conclusive answer, but I assure your Lordships that that is not so. I have attended some of 297 these Committees, and I really know. It would be utterly untrue to suspect that there is any thought of rivalry or jealousy or obstruction as between one Department and another—just as untrue as it would be to suggest that Ministers of one political Party have one sort of zeal and Ministers of another political Party a different sort of zeal on this matter. I have seen the thing with my own eyes, and there has never been a better example of united, zealous, active co-operation in working cut a plan than is being shown in this matter.
At the same time, it may well be desirable to create a nucleus of new staff—a small body of experienced persons who will devote themselves, with the Departments concerned, entirely to the task of bringing the project as a whole into legislative form. I do not know whether your Lordships are aware that there has been in existence, since a short time after the Beveridge Report appeared, a Committee of Ministers, including all whose Departments are concerned and including, of course, the Minister without Portfolio, and thus this nucleus will get its Ministerial contact. While I am as ready as any man to listen to suggestions made in a public-spirited way as to how to proceed in this matter, I feel certain, as far as I am in a position to form a judgment, that the creation of a new Ministry now would be no advantage. There is one final reason which, to my mind, is almost overwhelming. One of the difficulties in connexion with working out such a scheme is the transition from old to new. Working people all over the country are at present under different schemes. You have to arrange the adjustments to enable these people to be transferred into a new consolidated scheme, and that is more difficult than it might appear. I do not see how this difficult transition can be effected unless you keep actually in contact with the Departments now administering the various schemes and with the Committee of Ministers.
Very briefly, let me answer the third question put by Lord Nathan. The Government have said that they do not accept the Beveridge proposal based on the subsistence principle—though they hope that it will be possible to fix rates for unemployment and sickness not widely different from those in the Report. Apart from the fact that there must be always room for argument as to what constitutes 298 subsistence, the variation of benefit up and down with the cost of living, which the subsistence principle implies, is very difficult, if not impossible, to incorporate in a scheme based on the contributory principle. One of the simplicities which are attractive in the Beveridge Report is that it has got a fixed weekly contribution for which you get a fixed payment. Once you begin to adjust the thing by reference to subsistence, changes in purchasing power become very serious, because the contributions which make up the benefit are not made at the same date as the benefit is paid, but possibly years before. In the case of old age pensions, the Government have announced that they cannot at this stage, in view of all the uncertainties, contemplate the pension features of the Beveridge plan.
Then, briefly, as to the noble Lord's fourth question, I would reply that the Government have accepted death benefit as part of the scheme. This will undoubtedly affect the scope of the business of industrial assurance companies, but a State death benefit is not inconsistent with the continuance of industrial assurance in the present form. The Beveridge plan included the creation of a public: service for industrial assurance only as an optional part of the plan. There is plenty of scope for insurance besides that represented by funeral expenses.
I do not wish to commit the fault of making several perorations, but there is one broad reflection with which I should like to conclude, and I respectfully ask your Lordships' attention to it. My object has been to put this great plan, and the Government attitude to it, in its proper setting. If we turn away from details and specific projects, it is of the first importance to realize what is the portion—for it is only a portion—of the field of social improvement and advance which the development of a wider and more complete scheme of insurance against social misfortunes covers. Such a scheme is necessarily addressed mainly to giving people a modest weekly payment if they are overtaken by these misfortunes, or by the onset of old age. That is very important, and we in this country may take pride in having formulated and developed many such schemes before anyone else. But it would be a grave error to regard a system of insurance and compensation as though it covered all that ought to be meant by "social security."
299 That phrase is not used with any such limited meaning in the Atlantic Charter. "Social security" in its proper sense includes much more than providing for the unfortunate. It includes a consistent and positive effort on the part of the community to get rid of the things that cause these misfortunes as far as we can. Fencing machinery, the protection of child-life, the development of popular education, the building of houses in healthy surroundings and with modern conveniences, the eradication of diseases, are just as much part of social security as compensation for accidents and payment of sickness benefits. We must not mistake the part—however important and urgent the part may be—for the whole. Social life for the community does not consist of compensation or benefit alone, and it would be a tragedy instead of a blessing if we were led to canalize efforts for social security into too narrow or exclusive a channel. I would like our people to regard social policy in this country not as consisting merely in giving weekly benefits, but as aiming at the happiness which comes from work honestly done under good conditions and properly remunerated, in a world where aggression has become only an evil memory, and where citizens will live without privilege and without rivalry. In such a conception of social security, insurance against misfortune has an essential place. We will work together enthusiastically henceforward with the sincere object of providing that place more fully, but let us never overlook the true relation of the part to the whole.
§ LORD ADDINGTON
My Lords, I will detain you for a very few moments only. It seems to me essential that someone, before this debate came to an end, should draw attention to the last paragraph of this Report in which Sir William Beveridge lays down that freedom from want cannot be forced upon or given to a democracy but has to be won by them, and that this needs courage, faith, a sense of national unity and spiritual as well as material powers. This I am convinced is fundamental to the whole problem. It was President Roosevelt himself who said that he doubted whether there is any problem, political, social or economic, that will not melt away before the fire of a great spiritual awakening. Another great American, Dr. Buchman, said in this country: 300Suppose everybody cared enough and everybody shared enough would not everybody have enough? There is enough for everyone's need but not enough for everyone's greed.The Beveridge Report is a plan to end want and this can only be accomplished if mass unemployment is abolished. Both the plan and its condition require this spirit of sharing and caring throughout our people.
Such a spirit can only be permanently produced by a spiritual power dominating individuals and institutions alike. I would therefore urge that both in their arrangements for carrying out the proposals of this Report and in their plans for a better Britain as a whole, His Majesty's Government should give due weight and encouragement to all those forces which are working for the moral and spiritual regeneration of our people. Finally, I would like to refer to paragraph 7 of the Report in which we are reminded that this is "a time for revolutions, not for patching." I am convinced that it is a spiritual revolution that is needed most of all. This is a great opportunity for our generation to usher in the greatest revolution of all time whereby the Cross of Christ, its spirit and its power will transform the world.
§ THE EARL OF HUNTINGDON
My Lords, I apologize for detaining your Lordships for a few moments at this late hour, but I do feel that this subject is one of such very great importance and has had such a widespread effect throughout the whole country that it would not be altogether amiss if we were to devote a little extra time to the consideration of this Report. After carefully reading the speeches of His Majesty's Ministers in another place, and after listening to the extremely able and eloquent speech of the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, in this House, I still must confess to being a little doubtful as to the degree in which the Government have accepted this Report. They have, I understand, accepted certain aspects of it in principle, but, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, this is subject to financial review. I rather take this to mean that the whole extent of the Report therefore must be subject to financial review. What I think it means is that the Government wish to have further consideration before committing themselves. I think that is extremely wise and is very understandable. At the same time, I cannot 301 but feel rather worried over the effect of the impression which has been created throughout the whole country that this scheme has been more or less postponed or side-tracked.
It is obviously a matter for discussion whether a Ministry of Social Security is the best method of handling this scheme at this stage, and I should not care to state any definite opinion on that subject now, but I should like to suggest to the Government that some machinery be set up forthwith to start to implement this Report, because many people in this country are extraordinarily afraid of what will happen to them after the war. Some remember the desperation of trying to get work when no work was to be got. They remember the thousands of disabled men selling matches in the streets as their only means of living. We have been told that this cannot happen again. There have been fine promises and we are told that we have the Atlantic Charter as a bulwark against want. Unfortunately, there is not the same belief in these promises as there was, and the phrases of the Atlantic Charter are rather vague and people are doubtful whether they will ever he fully implemented.
For the first time we have in this scheme something definite. It is a definite scheme, practical, which would provide definite benefits for the people who most want them. In the Beveridge scheme for the first time people have a glimpse of what real security might be, and of their deliverance from the haunting fear of hunger, sickness and mean surroundings. I think that is why the Beveridge Report has captured the imagination of the country. Furthermore, it is not a scheme of charity. We must once and for all clear our minds of the false idea that social security for the nation is a form of charity as from one class to another. We are one united nation and we must build the future together. The Beveridge Report has brought before us the blue prints of a better life. Apart from the value of the different suggestions of the Report, I think such a Report has a value as a whole. I do hope that the Government will see their way either to accept the Report as a whole in principle, or else to produce some other scheme which will give the same benefits, and the same degree of security by some other, machinery. Otherwise all the enthusiasm and hope which have been 302 generated by this Report will turn to cynicism and disappointment, and the results of that will be incalculable.
Sir William Beveridge maintains that the medical and dental services should be made available as a right to the whole population by virtue of contributions for that purpose included in the social security payments. This obviously will entail complete reorganization of the medical services and a complete change of ideas on this subject. The first drawback in our present medical services is that the whole emphasis is laid on curing the diseased person rather than on building up a healthy community. Health is a positive thing and can be built up, but that greatest aspect of health is too often neglected. We wait until the damage has been done and then the doctor is called in, often when it is too late. The second drawback to the present system is the aspect of charity. In my opinion no one should be forced to accept charity, just as no one really wants it. That is why I learnt with some alarm both from the speech of the Lord President of the Council and from the Lord Chancellor, that in the words of the Lord President "the position of the great voluntary hospitals must be safeguarded."
I have no wish to criticize or belittle in any way the magnificent work done in the past by our voluntary hospitals, but at the same time I cannot see how, if they are to keep their voluntary independent status, they can be fitted into a complete comprehensive national scheme of health. If it were decided in the interests of greater efficiency to electrify railways, it would be useless to keep old steam engines, however effective they had been in the past. I am sure your Lordships are only too familiar with the absolute spate of appeals from voluntary hospitals, heart-breaking appeals from institutions which seem to be always on the verge of bankruptcy, short of means for research, short of equipment, with buildings falling down. It is disgraceful that this important work should have been left so long to the chance of voluntary contributions. People travel long distances and sit for hours on hard benches waiting for hurried treatment by overworked doctors. I suggest that these voluntary hospitals should be completely incorporated into a State scheme so that they might contribute their valuable experience and equipment to a comprehensive scheme. The only way in which we can build up the best medical service is to 303 create a healthy community and free ourselves of the idea that medical care is a charity from the rich to the poor.
There is one other question I should like to deal with, because it is the point on which the whole opposition to the Beveridge Report has crystallized. People have said that this is a magnificent piece of work and a magnificent scheme, but they ask whether we can afford it. I should like to submit that what we cannot afford is the mass of unemployed men and women whom we might have after the war. The Lord President of the Council has quoted some very interesting figures in another place. He said that a reduction of 500,000 in the number of unemployed meant an addition of £200,000,000 to the national income. That is about the same figure quoted in another speech by another member as the last annual return from foreign investments sold during the war. If I may make a humble suggestion to the Government I would like to ask them to commission Sir William Beveridge to compile a companion report on employment. I think as a nation we cannot dispense with his invaluable talent, and I cannot think of any better service in which it could be used than in trying to solve this all-embracing problem.
We tend to think in terms of pounds, shillings and pence. After all, the wealth of this country consists mainly in the soil and what is under it, in the number of hours worked by our people, in the efficiency of machinery which determines how much work can be done per hour, and finally in the organization which regulates the whole and distributes the profit. A certain proportion must be set aside for Social Services. Necessities have to be imported from other countries. Some are vital, such as food and raw materials, while some are luxuries like high-powered cars and fur coats. In order to pay for products which we import we export some things in the raw state, such as coal, and other things in the form of elaborate manufactured articles. The position is complicated by the intricacies of banking and finance. Money is used as a means of exchange and is lent or borrowed and interest has to be paid on money lent. This interest may be paid in money or goods or services. Tariffs and subsidies are used to control this international exchange. In 304 extreme cases tribute is exacted by one country from another, as by Germany from the Occupied Countries. But in spite of complications the simple production of wealth goes on. It varies according to the number of hours worked, the efficiency of machinery and, above all, according to the degree of organization.
It is in organization I suggest that we find the present weakness in our economic state. Planning and organization on a national scale, except under the stress of war, is only beginning. Modern technique can produce more food and more goods than we need—enough to export and probably pay our debts also. We all remember that before the war the crisis was not one of shortage but of over-production. I do not need to cite the cases of crops being ploughed in and coffee being thrown into the sea. The real question is how to distribute produce, and the great merit of the Beveridge plan is that it does distribute to the poorer people the means of buying necessities. In other words, it will build up a home market and in that way we shall be able to absorb the bulk of the unemployed. After the war I hope we shall turn all war-time production on to a peace-time need. We should then be able, I suggest, to pay our debts and to provide a large volume of export goods. But in order to feel the advantage of this change-over, I submit we shall have to resign ourselves to control by the Government both of the export and import trade. Those in control will decide priorities, and decide what we need to import and what it will be most advantageous to export. They will be in an immensely strong position to bargain for the best terms. This is no new idea. It has been practised successfully for many years by the Soviet Union, and it is being practised to-day by our own Government with such countries as Spain. The only need is to extend that idea, and make it a more widespread possibility.
If we really mean to lay the foundations of a better world, there is one thing which we must do: in co-operation with the United Nations we must work for the raising of the standards of living in all the different countries of this world. The more their standards are raised the richer and the better off we shall be ourselves. Especially must we work for the raising of the standards of living in those countries which now have the lowest standards. 305 If only, for instance, we could raise the standards of living of people in the Chinese countries and of the African natives, we would have an enormous demand for all our goods. If, possibly, some individual enterprises temporarily lost the advantage of crops produced extremely cheaply, nevertheless the ultimate gain both to the export and import trade through the raising of these levels would be enormous. I do not, at this late hour, desire to weary your Lordships by expounding what to me is a most fascinating theme—the organization of world trade after the war. I would only say, finally, that if the plan to implement the Beveridge Report were put into operation we would not, I think, necessarily be any poorer as a nation. On the contrary, I believe that this frontal attack on want, if skilfully carried out, would help to save the nation from the morass of post-war destitution, and to set its feet at last on the road to plenty and well-being.
§ LORD NATHAN
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Addison, I beg to move that this debate he now adjourned.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Lord Nathan.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.
§ Message from the Commons for the Earl of Drogheda to attend to be examined as a witness before the Sub-Committee for Finance and Establishments Inquiries of the Select Committee appointed by that House on National Expenditure: Leave given for his Lordship to attend if he think fit; and a Message ordered to be 306 sent to the Commons to acquaint them therewith.