Thursday, May 08, 2008

100 years and a day ago - Asquith announces the introduction of old age pensions

I'm terrible for remembering people's birthdays a day or so too late, and it's the same with anniversaries of significant events. So I failed in my intention to post yesterday on the anniversary of H.H. Asquith's announcement in his budget of 1908 of the introduction of old age pensions. But no other Lib Dem blogger appears to have posted on the subject, and it is worth commemorating, so forgive this being a day late.

Although Asquith had succeeded Campbell-Bannerman as prime minister a month earlier, he had already prepared the budget as Chancellor of the Exchequer and chose to present it to the House of Commons instead of his successor at the Treasury, Lloyd George.

His speech was workmanlike rather than a great flight of oratory, but he did comment that the Liberals' sympathy for social reform was to be ‘translated into a concrete and constructive policy of social and financial effort.’ He pointed out that older people were:

still unprovided for except by casual and unorganized effort or, by what is worse, individious dependence on Poor Law relief. I said then that we hoped and intended this year to lay firm the foundations of a wiser and humaner policy… I propose now to show how we intend to redeem the promises which I then made.

Later in the month he introduced the Old Age Pensions Bill, which provided for non-contributory pensions of 5 shillings a week to those over 70 with less than £21 a year in income and who had not claimed relief under the Poor Law. Asquith described it as a 'modest and tentative' measure, which indeed it was. Asquith had effectively announced the measure a year earlier, putting aside funds to pay for old age pensions.

This has echoes of 100 years later, when George Brown announced a financial measure affecting the poorer members of society that was actually to be implemented the following year. But whereas the introduction of old age pensions was a step forward for a better, fairer society, the abolition of the 10p rate of income tax, introduced by a supposedly left-of-centre government was a step in precisely the opposite direction.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Isn't Mark Oaten from Watford? How is he these days with the rent boys and the toilet situation?