- Available in: Print and PDF
- Published: October 1, 2011
Published 2011 Price £9.99
This new book tells the story of Beatrice Webb’s quest for a fairer society. In 1905 a Royal Commission was appointed to review the Poor Laws – Britain’s limited, harsh, often punitive welfare system, which dated back to 1834 and in parts to 1601. Beatrice Webb was appointed a member of the Commission, and soon despaired of most of the other members. In 1909 Beatrice produced a Minority Report, calling for the breakup of the Poor Law, while the majority of the Commission’s members called for more limited reforms. The Minority Report analysed the causes of poverty and unemployment as economic, rather than moral. It paved the way for the creation of the welfare state.
The book tells this story and brings to life Beatrice Webbs’ personality, her role as a campaigner for social reform and her encounters with the leading politicians and reformers of the age such as Churchill, Lloyd George, Beveridge and Keynes.
The author highlights some of the tensions at the heart of what would be called the ‘welfare state’ which are as apposite today as a hundred years ago: whether services should be concentrated on those in greatest need; universal versus selective provision; contributory versus non-contributory benefits; and what work incentives are necessary or appropriate.