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100 years of the state pension - thanks to Lloyd George

August 3, 2008 8:37 PM
Old people

Old people have their state pension directly thanks to Lloyd George

The press has featured a number of articles this week to commemorate the 100th anniversary last week of the introduction of the state pension in 1908. David Lloyd George was Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time; the making of 'that provision for the aged which compassion demands..' as Winston Churchill described it in March 1908.

In the Independent on Sunday, Julian Knight called the state pension scheme 'the kiss of life' as introduced by LG and contrasted this with what happened in 1980, when "....with government finances near bankruptcy, Margaret Thatcher ended the link between the state pension and earnings; it was now to increase in line with prices. In effect, it was being left to wither on the vine..." And they say she deserves a state funeral.

Andrew Ellson in the Times, noting that LG led Britain to victory in the First World War, maintains that the Liberal prime minister "...achieved another, arguably more important, legacy. In 1908.......the Welsh-speaking Liberal politician established the British state pension. Against considerable opposition from the House of Lords, Lloyd George introduced a non-contributory but means-tested pension..."

Rosemary Bennett in the same newspaper points out that Lloyd George and other campaigners for the pension thought they were starting a process which would lead to the ending of poverty for those in old age and to to "lift the shadow of the workhouse from the homes of the poor" but this has not turned out to be so.

The social reform legislation of the Liberal government of 1906-1914, especially after 1908 stands as one of the most important collections of measures to improve the lives and opportunities of ordinary people in this country. It made possible future laws and social provision following the 1942 Beveridge Report (the work of another Liberal) and the Attlee government's welfare state legislation.

To celebrate the anniversary of the 1908 Pension Act and to place it and the other social legislation of the period in context, the Liberal Democrat History Group will be holding a fringe meeting at conference in Bournemouth on 14 September. The speakers will be Dr Ian Packer of Lincoln University (who is currently writing a biography of Liberal prime minister H H Asquith) and Mr Joe Harris of the National Pensioners Convention. The meeting will be chaired by Lady Jane Bonham Carter, Asquith's great-granddaughter.

To read more of the articles from the press about Pensions then and now follow the links:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/money/pensions/article4432435.ece for the piece by Rosemary Bennett, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/money/article4444524.ece?openComment=true for the piece by Andrew Ellson and http://www.independent.co.uk/money/invest-save/julian-knight-the-state-pension-kiss-of-life-is-followed-by-the-kiss-of-death-883621.html for Julian Knight's contribution.