Editorial – A Lead For The World

5 December 1942

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 05 December 1942

A Lead For The World

Not only post-war planning, but the present energy which the British people are devoting to the prosecution of the war have received a great fillip by the publication of Sir William Beveridge’s plan for social security. It offers a glimpse of an authentic New Order, which has nothing in common with the sham facade of totalitarian promises and projects.

It is an event of world importance that such a momentous piece of social planning should be evolved and propounded when Britain is in the throes of the greatest war of all time. The preamble to the report makes the point that in the field of social security Britain’s provisions will already stand comparison with those of any other country, while in this respect few countries will stand comparison with Britain. And yet here is a plan designed to better a system which in many important aspects already gives a lead to the world.

If the Government gives the report its blessing, and, surely, the main principles must find acceptance, the full poverty of the Axis programme must inevitably be exposed by such a searching comparison. The very conception of the report shows the world that Britain means business in tackling the first of the five “giants” which stand in the way of reconstruction. Sir William Beveridge’s attack is against Want. There remain Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness.

Revolutionary as many of the recommendations of the report are, they remain broadly based on the contributory principle which has proved so well suited to our national temperament. We are not to be given something for nothing, but a minimum subsistence level is to be assured for all and all must help to sustain It. On this sound and solid base the field is still left open for individual enterprise.

In detail Sir William’s plan is cleverly calculated to abolish want without encouraging sloth or improvidence. Decent pension, for man and wife, abolition of the means test, funeral grants, the institution of children’s allowances to restore our dwindling population, free medical and hospital treatment for every citizen, increases in unemployment and disability benefits, special benefit forhousewives, and the single weekly contribution to cover the unified services; all these are recommendation, which should be very widely acceptable.

More controversial proposals are those suggesting nationalisation of workmen’s compensation, alteration of the status of approved societies, and conversion of industrial insurance into a public service, but the report presents powerful arguments in support of these contentions, and the public will rightly look askance at any weakening of the whole plan for the sake of sectional interests.

Hasty and premature implementation of the report is not called for. Its scope demands thoughtful consideration, but first impressions are unquestionably favourable. Sir William, himself, has expressed the hope that its cardinal principles will receive Government endorsement within the next twelve months.

Certainly this plan or something very much like it must be well in hand by the end of the war, The nation Is In no mood to contemplate a repetition of the ghastly economic inertia which followed the last war. The bogey of want can demonstrably be dispelled. The State can hardly do less than use the means placed in its hand, and must speedily seal this great forward step by finding a solution to the complementary evil of unemployment.