20 MARCH 1942, Page 4


SPEAKING to the Royal Statistical Society on Tuesday, Sir William Beveridge (incidentally he and Sir Stephen Tallents, who have now been appointed to frame a scheme of fuel restric- tion, are two out of three public men whom I mentioned a few weeks ago as available for more important work than they were then doing) made roundly the bold claim that poverty could be abolished and that he knew how to do it. Since Sir William is chairman of a highly important inter-departmental committee on Social Insurance and Allied Services, which has already heard a good deal of evidence, he is speaking with much more than his own personal authority, considerable though that is. Everything, no doubt, depends on what is meant by poverty, but there are plenty of studies (like Seebohm Rowntree's Poverty and Progress) to provide criteria for that. An industrialist of wide experience said to me this week that what the reasonably well-paid working- man wanted was not higher wages but adequate security—against unemployment and against old age. Here again the emphasis is on " adequacy." Nothing, I was assured, would do more to allay any industrial discontent than the certainty of that— promised now, though the operation of any new scheme might be postponed till after the war, for unemployment today is not a relevant issue. If that is a sound judgement the Beveridge Committee should speed-up its deliberations and report. Poverty will not be banished without fairly heavy taxation, but we may as well face the certainty that when the pressure of war-taxation lightens we shall have still to pay the price of securing the workers from want and building a contented community. Most of us will face it cheerfully.

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