Friday, 4 July 2008

Let's not forget Jim Griffiths

60 years after the founding of the National Health Service, Aneurin Bevan is quite rightly receiving his due as the man who pushed the scheme through, using his powers of persuasion and (as he later admitted) downright bribery.

Lloyd George is recognised as having started the state welfare ball rolling in the UK with his "People's Budget" of 1909. Beveridge, whose 1942 report gave the vital kick* to the five giant programmes, including health, which formed the core of the post-war government's programme.

However, it was JH Griffiths from Betws who forced a vote in the House of Commons on the Beveridge Report in 1942, against the coalition government, who wanted to kick it into touch. (Ironically, it was Herbert Morrison, the most vigorous advocate of Beveridge within the cabinet, who was deputed to put, successfully, the government case.) As we now know, the Attlee government of 1945 was to reverse that decision.

As Minister for National Insurance in that government, Griffiths introduced the 1946 Industrial Injuries Act, which effectively nationalised routine compensation, taking it away from the employers and the private insurers.

Jim (short for "Jeremiah") Griffiths secured a more lasting place in history under a later Labour PM as the first Secretary of State for Wales, but his part in the setting up of the Welfare State should not be forgotten.

*The words of Nicholas Timmins, from his book "The five giants - A Biography of the Welfare State"

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