A straitjacket with wriggle room: the Beveridge report, the Treasury and the Exchequer's pension liability, 1942–59
Twentieth Century British History, 17, (1), . (doi:10.1093/tcbh/hwi062).
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The last two decades have seen the establishment of a new orthodoxy about William Beveridge's 1942 pensions plan which questions both the radical credentials of his proposals and their practical influence and coherence. However, as this article shows, while this new orthodoxy has usefully demolished some myths about Beveridge's legacy, it has also exaggerated the plan's conservatism and inflexibility. Certainly, Beveridge did not propose that the state should trespass far on to the territory he believed should be covered by volutarism. However, his scheme was more redistributive and financially flexible than has often been suggested. As the article further shows, it was the actions of postwar politicians, prompted by a vigorous campaign emanating in the Treasury, that reined in the more radical features of Beveridge's plan, and reduced the pension system's ability to respond flexibly to the demands of the 1950s. The significance of the findings of this study for our understanding of the postwar welfare consensus will be highlighted throughout its course.
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