Item 71 - Carbon copy of a letter from F. W. Pethick-Lawrence to Clement Attlee

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Carbon copy of a letter from F. W. Pethick-Lawrence to Clement Attlee


  • 21 Aug. 1940 (Creation)

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Proposes various measures in connection with the War Savings Bill.



21st. August. 1940.

Dear Clem,

I had a talk with Kingsley yesterday about the War Savings Bill, and as you probably know we are proposing at the Party Meeting to-day to appoint a small committee to go into this.

As you will remember, this question arose out of the talks that we had with the Policy Committee of the T.U.C. regarding the Keynes plan and the T.U.C. rightly maintained that before they could possibly associate themselves with the recommendation to the workers to save during the war, they must be assured that such savings would not be used when the war was over either by the employers or by the State to reduce the position of the workers.

It is therefore essential in my mind, that it should be new savings and not transferred capital that should form the basis of the Government promise, and any proposal to transform the Bill into a general disregard of all savings, including pre-war, would entirely fail to meet the case though possibly some arrangement might be come to with regard to holdings converted up till last week’s debate.

On the other hand, I am quite sure that the real gravamen of the heat developed in the Labour ranks, is due to our old enemy the Household Means Test, which so long as it remains, will be a constant irritant.

I therefore suggested to Kingsley, that he should seriously consider some gesture with regard to this vital matter and I would like you and he and Arthur to put your heads together to see whether something of this kind could not be done. I am turning over the matter in my own mind. I do not believe that it necessarily need cost a very great deal if it were done on reasonable lines.

I know of course, that the Labour Party have maintained that there ought to be no Means Test of any kind at any rate for Unemployment Assistance, but I do not think that this can be defended either for Unemployment Assistance or for Old Age Pensions. On the other hand, it is humiliating that a member of the household of the applicant should have to undergo a detailed examination of all his resources including savings before the grant to the old person or unemployed living with him, is considered. After the holiday is over, this matter must be faced and dealt with.

I hope you will get something of a change while Parliament is not sitting.

Yours sincerely,

Rt. Hon. C. R. Attlee, M.P.,
House of Commons,

P.S. In turning out my papers & clearing my desk I came across the enclosed which came a few days back. I cannot help feeling it is a most valuable suggestion


The postscript is handwritten.

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This description was created by A. C. Green in 2020.




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