William Beveridge, 1879-1963
William Beveridge was born in India. After studying at Charterhouse School and Balliol College, Oxford, he became a lawyer.
In 1908 he joined the Board of Trade as a leading authority on unemployment insurance. The following year he was appointed Director of Labour Exchanges. Beveridge's ideas influenced David Lloyd George and led to the passing of the 1911 National Insurance Act.
In 1919 Beveridge began an 18-year tenure as director of the London School of Economics. He was highly influenced by the Fabian Society socialists - in particular by Beatrice Potter Webb, with whom he worked on the 1909 Poor Laws report. His works on unemployment (1909) and massive historical study of prices and wages (1939) were testaments to those values and his skills as an economist and statistician.
In 1937 he was appointed as Master of University College Oxford. Three years later, Ernest Bevin, Minister of Labour, asked Beveridge to look into existing schemes of social security and make recommendations. In 1941, the government commissioned Beveridge to report on how Britain should be rebuilt after World War II. He also accepted the presidency of the Royal Statistical Society.
His report, published in 1942, argued for a minimum standard of living 'below which no one should be allowed to fall'. He recommended that the government should find ways of fighting the five 'giant evils: want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness.' This led to the establishment of the modern welfare state and the National Health Service.
Later that year, he was elected to Parliament as Liberal MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed. In 1945 the new Labour Government led by Clement Attlee began implementing Beveridge's proposals. Attlee announced the establishment of a National Health Service in 1948 with free medical treatment for all and a national system of benefits to provide social security from 'the cradle to the grave'. The new system was partly built on the National Insurance scheme set up by Lloyd George in 1911.
In 1946 he was created Baron Beveridge, and eventually became leader of the Liberals in the House of Lords. He authored Power and Influence in 1953. Beveridge died at home in March 1963. His last words, whilst still working on his History of Prices in bed, were 'I have a thousand things to do'.