Beveridge: Procedure of Committee

33.    Before concluding the Introduction, it is necessary to say something as to the procedure of the Committee.   They were appointed in June, 1941, held their first meeting on 8th July, 1941, and gave immediate notice of their terms of reference to the principal organisations concerned with the various insurance schemes and allied services and invited the submission of memoranda of evidence. They gave general notice through the press and in other ways of their activities. While organisations outside the Government departments should be preparing their evidence, the Committee asked the departments themselves to furnish detailed memoranda describing each of the insurance schemes and allied services as it stood today and from this constructed the survey to which reference has been made and which is set out in detail in Appendix B. The first of the interested organisations to appear before the Committee gave evidence on 26th November, 1941, and from then till the end of September, 1942, the Committee received memoranda from more than a hundred representative organisations whose names are given in Appendix C. The Minister without Portfolio (Mr. Arthur Greenwood) announced in the House of Commons on the 27th January, 1942, that ” it will be within the power of the Committee to consider developments of the national insurance schemes in the way of adding death benefits or dealing with any other risks which are at present not covered by such schemes.” In accord with this announcement, the Committee discussed problems affecting insurance for funeral benefit with the Industrial Life Offices which are concerned with such matters.

34.Those memoranda which appear to be of most general interest are given in Appendix G, (Printed separately) with any alterations made by their authors after submission;    certain   other  memoranda  are  summarised briefly.      While Appendix B presents a general picture of the insurance schemes and allied services as they stand after forty years of piece-meal growth, Appendix G shows how those schemes and services and their problems are viewed by the persons outside Government departments who are most deeply concerned in their administration or interested in their results.   A large number of those who presented written memoranda attended the Committee for oral examina­tion.   The minutes of these meetings will not be published as it was desired to make discussion on these occasions as informal and as informative as possible.  In the case of several organisations whose interest in social insurance was of a general character the Committee have held more than one meeting with their representatives.    In addition the Chairman has either individually or with particular members of the Committee directly interested in   the particular aspect had many discussions with individuals and representatives of organisations. On two occasions, accompanied by members of the Committee, the Chairman held meetings in Edinburgh to hear oral evidence from Scottish organisations.   Altogether the full Committee met on forty-eight occasions.

  1. Social security is first and foremost an interest of the individual citizen, of the consumer of social insurance and allied services even more than of the administrator.   With a view to obtaining, so far as possible, through persons engaged in forms of public and citizen service making them familiar with the working of the existing schemes, indications of the views, experiences and difficulties of the consumers of insurance, the Nuffield College Social Reconstruction Survey were invited to make an investigation of such matters and collected material for this purpose from many quarters.
  2. The main problems of social security are common to all nations.    In order to be sure that, in making their survey, the Committee had the benefit of the experience of other nations, so far as it could be made available in the abnormal circumstances of the time, they sought the help of the International Labour Office, which arranged for Dr. Oswald Stein, Head of the Social Insurance Section, and one of his chief assistants, Mr. Maurice Stack, to visit Britain for the purpose of conferring with the Committee.    This visit was stimulating and informing in the highest degree.    It is appropriate that the Committee should express in warm terms their gratitude for the help thus afforded by the International Labour Office.   Some comparisons between the present British schemes, the proposals of this Report and the practice of other nations are given in Appendix F.
  3. In regard to physical needs for subsistence, the Committee invited an independent Sub-Committee including Professor A. L. Bowley, Mr. Seebohm Rowntree, Mr. R. F. George and Dr. H. E. Magee to advise them.    The results of this Sub-Committee’s work are discussed in paras. 133-232 dealing with Benefit Rates and the Problem of Rent.
  4. In regard to workmen’s compensation, a Royal Commission on this subject, under the Chairmanship of Sir Hector Hetherington was appointed on 22nd December, 1938, and between February, 1939, and June, 1940, received a good deal of evidence which has been published.    Some of the bodies most
    deeply interested, on the side of the employers, expressed their inability through  pre-occupation  with  urgent  war  problems  to  give   time  to   the preparation of evidence, and the Royal Commission suspended its sittings in July, 1940.    Workmen’s compensation, however, was expressly included in the reference to the Inter-departmental Committee, and it has been the duty of the Committee to deal with this question in their survey.   The Report, with its wider reference, approaches the question from a different standpoint from that open to the Royal Commission, but taking into account both the printed evidence   before   the   Commission   and   further   evidence   tendered   to   the Committee.    It is recognised that, in this field particularly, there are many technical problem for which it would be premature now to suggest detailed final solutions.    As to the general lines on which the results of industrial accident and disease should be treated in future, the Report is clear.
  5. There will, it may be hoped, come a season when it is profitable to consider the practical relations of social insurance in Britain and of schemes for the same purpose in the Dominions, in the Colonies and in other countries of the world.    On the assumption that once again it will be possible for men to move from one country to another to find the best use for their powers, it will be desirable to consider the making of reciprocal arrangements between the schemes of different countries facilitating transfer from one to the other, that is to say, arrangements enabling men on migration to avoid forfeiting security and allowing them to carry with them some of the rights that they have acquired in their former country.  That should, in due course, become a practical problem.  It is not possible today to do more than mention the problem to show that it has not been forgotten.

Signature of report

40.   The Report is made by the Chairman alone. This calls for explana­tion and can be explained briefly.    All the members of the Committee other than the Chairman are civil servants.    Many of the matters dealt with in the Report raise questions of policy, on which it would be inappropriate for any civil servant to express an opinion except on behalf of the Minister to whom he is responsible ;   some of these matters are so important as to call for decision by the Government as a whole.    When the nature of the issues that would be raised before the Committee became apparent, the following letters were exchanged between the Minister without Portfolio who had appointed the Committee and the Chairman of the Committee.

27th January, 1942. ” My dear Beveridge,

“I have discussed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer the position of the depart mental representatives on the Inter-departmental Committee on Social insurance and Allied Services. In view of the issues of high policy which will arise, we think that the departmental representatives should henceforward be regarded as your advisers and assessors on the various technical and administrative matters with which they are severally concerned. This means that the Report, when made, will be your own report; it will be signed by you alone, and the departmental representatives will not be associated in any way with the views and recommendations on questions of policy which it contains. It would be well that the Report should contain words to make it clear that this is the position.

Yours sincerely,

(Signed)    Arthur Greenwood.”

28th January, 1942. ” My dear Greenwood,

“Many thanks for your letter as to the work of the Committee on Social Insurance and Allied Services and the position of departmental representatives thereon. I had already communicated the substance of what you write to the Committee at their last meeting and will now circulate vour letter.

“Needless to say I entirely accept the view taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and yourself. I believe that in this way the departmental representatives will be even more useful than if they had to sign the Report and I shall encourage them within the Committee itself to express their views with complete frankness to me so that whatever I may say I shall say after getting the best possible advice.

Yours sincerely,

(Signed)    W. H. Beveridge.”

In accord with the last sentence of the Chairman’s letter, the departmental representatives have given their views within the Committee and have placed at the disposal of the Chairman their expert knowledge of the problems with which the Committee was concerned. In discussion and in examination of witnesses the Committee has functioned as a Committee. Through their representatives and otherwise the various Departments have been able to express views on questions arising in the course of the enquiry, but they have done so, if at all, without associating themselves or any Minister or the Government in any way whatever with anything that is written here. For every recommendation and every word in the Report and in Appendices D, E and F the Chairman alone is responsible. The Report stands or falls on its merits and its argument, with no authority behind it except that of a sincere attempt, with expert guidance from the departments and after consideration of views presented by interested bodies, to understand the innumerable problems of social security, to balance arguments and equities, to compare desires and resources, and to devise methods of making all the immense good that has been accomplished into something better still.