Monday, July 13, 2015

The struggle to introduce National Insurance in the first place

So David Cameron is "open to the idea of workers funding their own unemployment or sickness benefits privately through financial products".

According to the Independent, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesperson told a briefing of journalists today that the Prime Minister agreed with a suggestion by Iain Duncan Smith about the role of private finance in the welfare state.

"We need to support the kind of products that allow people through their lives to dip in and out when they need the money for sickness or care or unemployment," Mr Duncan Smith told the Sunday Telegraph at the weekend.

But then the Conservatives never liked National Insurance.

Back in 2002 I wrote a House Points column (in the much-mourned Liberal Democrat News) about the struggle Charles Masterman had putting Lloyd George's National Health Insurance Bill through the Commons.

Here is part of that column. It was written in the present tense because of some conceit involving a time machine:
The doctors are not keen. Sir James Barr, chairman of the BMA, believes it will "destroy individual effort and increase the spirit of dependence," and that "only loafers and wastrels will benefit". 
The British Medical Journal says that if you wanted to abolish the medical profession it would be "hardly possible to conceive a scheme better calculated to achieve that end that the present Bill". Letters to the Lancet call it "a bold and sinister attempt to degrade our calling" and "an attempt to capture and enslave our profession". 
Nor are the newspapers enthusiastic. The Daily Mail has declared its opposition to "the hateful task of collecting this unpopular tax thus thrust upon Mr Lloyd George's hapless victims". For, "it is not only 3d a week we shall lose, but our independence, self-respect and character" ... And a reader says: "If the Insurance Bill becomes law it will be advisable for us to leave England." 
Meanwhile the Evening News is warning that "we shall never boast of freedom again if we let this measure past," and writing feelingly of "these days of highly paid servants". 
The cost of employer insurance for domestic staff is uppermost in many minds. Five aristocrats have founded a League of Protest and called a public meeting. As we arrive, Lady Desart is reaching her peroration: 
"This England never did nor never shall
Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror." 
Later, when the government sends servants a circular about the new scheme, the headmaster of Eton will accuse it of "interfering with home life to an unprecedented degree". 
And if you listen carefully you can hear the Conservative leader pledging to repeal the act as soon as he comes into office.

No comments: