455. There are some to whom pursuit of security appears to be a wrong aim. They think of security as something inconsistent with initiative, adventure, personal responsibility. That is not a just view of social security as planned in this Report. The plan is not one for giving to everybody something for nothing and without trouble, or something that will free the recipients for ever thereafter from personal responsibilities. The plan is one to secure income for subsistence on condition of service and contribution and in order to make and keep men fit for service. It cannot be got without thought and effort. It can be carried through only by a concentrated determination of theBritish democracy to free itself once for all of the scandal of physical want for which there is no economic or moral justification. When that effort has been made, the plan leaves room and encouragement to all individuals to win for themselves something above the national minimum, to find and to satisfy and to produce the means of satisfying new and higher needs than bare physical needs.
456. 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. Their view is not merely admitted but asserted in the Report itself. The Plan for Social Security is put forward as part of a general programme of social policy. It is one part only of an attack upon five giant evils: upon the physical Want with which it is directly concerned, upon Disease which often causes that Want and brings many other troubles in its train, upon Ignorance which no democracy can afford among its citizens, upon the Squalor which arises mainly through haphazard distribution of industry and population, and uponthe Idleness which destroys wealth and corrupts men, whether they are well fed or not, when they are idle. In seeking security not merely against physical want, but against all these evils in all their forms, and in showing that security can be combined with freedom and enterprise and responsibility of the individual for his own life, the British community and those who in other lands have inherited the British tradition have a vital service to render to human progress.
457. There are others who, not through lack of faith in Britain’s ultimate future, but as a measure of prudence will say that, before committing itself to a scheme as large in total expenditure as that outlined in this Report, the nation should wait to see if in fact its resources grow after the war sufficiently to meet the expenditure. This is natural caution. Those who feel it may, nevertheless, support the plan as a method of organisation, irrespective of the precise rates of benefit and contribution to be written into it or of the number of years chosen for the transition period, during which contributory pensions will rise to adequacy; that number can be varied and the speed at which expenditure will rise can be increased or decreased. The Plan for Social Security is first and foremost a method of redistributing income so as to put the first and most urgent needs first, so as to make the best possible use of whatever resources are available. That is worth doing, even if the resources as a whole are insufficient for the standard of life that is desired. But it must be realised that nothing materially below the scales of benefit and pension suggested here can be justified on scientific grounds as adequate for human subsistence. Benefits, allowances or pensions below the proposals of this Report may merely mean that the cost of unemployment or sickness or childhood is being borne not directly in cash, but indirectly in privation and lowered human efficiency.
458. There are yet others who will say that, however desirable it may appear to reconstruct social insurance or to make other plans for a 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 today in emphasising 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 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.
459. Statement of a reconstruction policy by a nation at war is statement of the uses to which that nation means to put victory, when victory is achieved. In a war which many nations must wage together as whole-hearted allies, if they are to win victory, such a statement of the uses of victory may be vital. This was recognised by the leaders of the democracies east and west of the Atlantic in putting their hands to a charter which, in general terms, set out the nature of the world which they desired to establish after the war. The Atlantic Charter has since then been signed on behalf of all the United Nations. The fifth clause of the charter declares the desire of the American and the British leaders “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.” The proposals of this Report are designed as a practical contribution towards the achievement of the social security which is named in the closing words. The proposals cover ground which must be covered, in one way or another, in translating the words of the Atlantic Charter into deeds. They represent, not an attempt by one nation to gain for its citizens advantages at the cost of their fellow fighters in a common cause, but a contribution to that common cause. They are concerned not with increasing the wealth of the British people, but with so distributing whatever wealth is available to them in total, as to deal first with first things, with essential physical needs. They are a sign of the belief that the object of government in peace and in war is not the glory of rulers or of races, but the happiness of the common man. That is a belief which, through all differences in forms of government, unites not only the democracies whose leaders first put their hands to the Atlantic Charter, but those democracies and all their Allies. It unites the United Nations and divides them from their enemies.
460. At the request of His Majesty’s Government, the Inter-departmental Committee have pursued the task of surveying the social services of Britain and examining plans for their reconstruction during the most savage, most universal and most critical war in which Britain has ever been engaged. It would be wrong to conclude this Report without expressing gratitude to all those who in such a crisis have, nevertheless, found time and energy to assist the Committee in this task, who, triumphing over difficulties of dispersal, of loss of staff, of absorption in urgent tasks of war, have prepared memoranda, attended to give evidence, and have discussed their problems with so much frankness and public spirit. Naturally the question has arisen at times whether it is possible to give to such problems in war the consideration that they need, whether, both for the sake of concentration on war effort and to make the best in reconstruction, the work of the Committee should not have been postponed to a more leisured season. The question may be asked and can be answered The interest that has been shown in the problems of the Committee, by nearly all those who have come before the Committee or have prepared memoranda, is probably a true reflection of the state of public feeling and represents probably a right judgment of the time when reconstruction should be taken in hand. There are difficulties in planning reconstruction of the social services during the height of war, but there are also advantages in doing so. The prevention of want and the diminution and relief of disease—the special aim of the social services—are in fact a common interest of all citizens. It may be possible to secure a keener realisation of that fact in war than it is in peace, because war breeds national unity. It may be possible, through sense of national unity and readiness to sacrifice personal interests to the common cause, to bring about changes which, when they are made, will be accepted on all hands as advances, but which it might be difficult to make at other times. There appears at any rate to be no doubt of the determination of the British people, however hard pressed in war, not to live wholly for war, not to abandon care of what may come after. That, after all, is in accord with the nature of democracies, of the spirit in which they fight and of the purpose for which they fight. They make war, today more consciously than ever, not for the sake of war, not for dominion or revenge, but war for peace. If the united democracies today can show strength and courage and imagination equal to their manifest desire, can plan for a better peace even while waging total war, they will win together two victories which in truth are indivisible.
461. Freedom from want cannot be forced on a democracy or given to a democracy. It must be won by them. Winning it needs courage and faith and a sense of national unity: courage to face facts and difficulties and overcome them ; faith in our future and in the ideals of fair-play and freedom for which century after century our forefathers were prepared to die ; a sense of national unity overriding the interests of any class or section. The Plan for Social Security in this Report is submitted by one who believes that in this supreme crisis the British people will not be found wanting, of courage and faith and national unity, of material and spiritual power to play their part in achieving both social security and the victory of justice among nations upon which security depends.
(Signed) W. H. Beveridge,
20th November, 1942