National Insurance Act 1911

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National Insurance Act 1911
Long title An Act to provide for Insurance against Loss of Health and for the Prevention and Cure of Sickness and for Insurance against Unemployment, and for purposes incidental thereto.
Citation 1911 c. 55
Territorial extent England and Wales; Scotland; Northern Ireland
Dates
Royal assent 16 December 1911
Status: Repealed

The National Insurance Act 1911 created a system of health insurance for industrial workers in Great Britain based on contributions from employers, the government, and the workers themselves. It was one of the foundations of the welfare state. It also provided unemployment insurance for designated cyclical industries. It formed part of the wider social welfare reforms of the Liberal Government of 1906–1915. David Lloyd George, the Liberal Chancellor of the Exchequer, was the prime moving force behind its design, negotiations with doctors and other interest groups, and final passage.

Background[edit]

Lloyd George followed the example of Germany, which under conservative Chancellor Otto von Bismarck had provided compulsory national insurance against sickness from 1884. After visiting Germany in 1908, Lloyd George said in his 1909 Budget Speech, that Britain should aim to be "putting ourselves in this field on a level with Germany; We should not emulate them only in armaments."[1] His measure gave the British working classes the first contributory system of insurance against illness and unemployment. The Act only applied to waged earners--about 70 per cent of the work force--their families and the unwaged were not covered .[2]

After first praising the proposal, the Conservatives split and most voted against it. When returned to office they did not change it.

Some trade unions who operated their own insurance schemes and friendly societies who had their own schemes were at first opposed, but Lloyd George convinced most of them to support the proposal. The Friendly Societies and unions were given the a major role in administering health insurance. Covered workers outside those agencies dealt with the local Post Office. The government picked up basic benefits that the unions and societies had promised, thus greatly helping their financial reserves.[3][4]

The Act was psychologically important as it removed the need for unemployed workers to rely on the stigmatised social welfare provisions of the Poor Law. This hastened the end of the Poor Law as a social welfare provider, with the Poor Law unions being abolished in 1929, and the administration of poor relief being transferred to the counties and county boroughs.[5]

Key figures in the implementation of the Act included Robert Laurie Morant, and especially economist William Braithwaite who drafted the details after inspecting the German system.[6]

The medical profession was angry with the law, despite support from some prominent leaders such as Victor Horsley.[7] Some critics on te right such as Hilaire Belloc considered the Insurance Act to be a manifestation of The Servile State, which Belloc blasted in his book of the same name.[8]

Part I, Health[edit]

Leaflet promoting the National Insurance Act 1911

The National Insurance Act Part I provided for a National Insurance scheme with provision of medical benefits. All workers who earned under £160 a year had to pay 4 pence a week to the scheme; the employer paid 3 pence, and general taxation paid 2 pence (Lloyd George called it the "ninepence for fourpence"). As a result, workers could take sick leave and be paid 10 shillings a week for the first 13 weeks and 5 shillings a week for the next 13 weeks. Workers also gained access to free treatment for tuberculosis, and the sick were eligible for treatment by a panel doctor. Due to pressure from the Co-operative Women's Guild, the National Insurance Act provided maternity benefits.

In parts of Scotland which were still largely subsistence farming the collection of cash contributions was impractical. The Highlands and Islands Medical Service was established in the crofting counties on a non-contributory basis in 1913.

Part II, Unemployment[edit]

National Insurance Act Part II provided for time-limited unemployment benefit for certain highly cyclical industries, especially the building trades, mechanical engineering, foundries, vehicle manufacturing, and sawmills. The scheme was based on actuarial principles and it was planned that it would be funded by a predetermined amount each from workers, employers, and taxpayers. It made no provision for dependants. Part II worked in a similar way to Part I. The worker gave 2.5 pence/week when employed, the employer 2.5 pence, and the taxpayer 3 pence. After one week of unemployment, the worker would start to be eligible to receive 7 shillings/week for up to 15 weeks in a year. The money would be collected from labour exchanges. By 1913, 2.3 million were insured under the scheme for unemployment benefit and almost 15 million insured for sickness benefit.[9]

A key assumption of the Act was an unemployment rate of 4.6%. At the time the Act was passed unemployment was at 3% and the fund was expected to quickly build a surplus. Under the Act, employees' contributions to the scheme were to be compulsory and taken by the employer before the workers' salary was paid.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Maggie Craig (2011). When the Clyde Ran Red. Mainstream Publishing. p. 26. 
  2. ^ John Grigg, Lloyd George, the people's champion, 1902-1911 (1978) 313-51.
  3. ^ Grigg, p 325
  4. ^ Alan Clinton (1977). The Trade Union Rank and File: Trades Councils in Britain, 1900-40. Manchester UP. pp. 48–49. 
  5. ^ "English Poor Laws". eh.net. Retrieved 2016-07-12. 
  6. ^ Grigg, p 321-24
  7. ^ Michael S. Dunnill, "Victor Horsley (1857–1915) and National Insurance." Journal of medical biography 21.4 (2013): 249-254.
  8. ^ Barker, Rodney (2013-01-11). Political Ideas in Modern Britain: In and After the Twentieth Century. Routledge. ISBN 9781134910663. 
  9. ^ Timothy T. Hellwig, "The Origins of Unemployment Insurance in Britain." Social Science History 29#1 (2005): 107-136.

Further reading[edit]

  • Alborn, Timothy. "Senses of belonging: The politics of working-class insurance in Britain, 1880–1914." Journal of modern history 73.3 (2001): 561-602. [ http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/339125 in JSTOR]
  • Boyer, George R. "The evolution of unemployment relief in Great Britain." Journal of Interdisciplinary History 34.3 (2004): 393-433. online
  • Briggs, Asa. "The welfare state in historical perspective." European Journal of Sociology 2#2 (1961): 221-258.
  • Carpenter, Glyn. "National Health Insurance: A Case Study in the Use of Private Non-Profit Making Organizations in the Provision of Welfare Benefits." Public Administration 62.1 (1984): 71-89.
  • Clarke, Orne. The National insurance act, 1911; being a treatise on the scheme of national health insurance and insurance against unemployment created by that act (1912) full text
  • Cordery, Simon. British friendly societies, 1750-1914 (Springer, 2003).
  • Fraser, Derek. The Evolution of the British Welfare State: A History of Social Policy since the Industrial Revolution (2009).
  • Gazeley, I. Poverty in Britain 1900-1945 (Palgrave 2003)
  • Gilbert, Bentley B. The evolution of national insurance in Great Britain: the origins of the welfare state (1966). pp 289-447. the standard scholarly monograph.
  • Grigg, John. Lloyd George, the people's champion, 1902-1911 (vol 2, 1978) 2:312-51.
  • Hay, J.R. The Origins of the Liberal Welfare Reforms 1906–1914 (1983) complete book
  • Hay, Roy. "Employers and social policy in Britain: The evolution of welfare legislation, 1905–14∗." Social History 2.4 (1977): 435-455.
  • Heller, Michael. "The National Insurance Acts 1911–1947, the Approved Societies and the Prudential Assurance Company." Twentieth Century British History 19.1 (2008): 1-28. doi:10.1093/tcbh/hwm032
  • Hennock, Ernest Peter. The origin of the welfare state in England and Germany, 1850-1914: social policies compared (Cambridge UP, 2007) pp 227-42.
  • Loch, C. S. "National Insurance Act, 1911." Charity Organisation Review 31.186 (1912): 312-316. in JSTOR
  • McFall, Liz. "Pragmatics and Politics: the case of industrial assurance in the UK." Journal of Cultural Economy 3.2 (2010): 205-223.
  • Sokolovsky, Joan. "The making of national health insurance in Britain and Canada: institutional analysis and its limits." Journal of Historical Sociology 11.2 (1998): 247-280.
  • Whiteside, Noelle. "Welfare insurance and casual labour: a study of administrative intervention in industrial employment, 1906–26." Economic History Review 32.4 (1979): 507-522. in JSTOR

External links[edit]