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Aneurin Bevan


Welcome to the website of the Aneurin Bevan Society. Here you can learn about the life and work of Aneurin (Nye) Bevan (1897-1960), founder of Britain’s National Health Service and one of the Labour movement’s greatest orators and thinkers.

Use the links on the right hand side to learn about Nye Bevan’s life, work and ideas as well as the history of the NHS.

You can also find out more about the Bevan Society, our activities and programme of lectures.

In the speeches section, we will be building an archive of Bevan’s greatest oratory including archive recordings. In the articles section you will find commentary on Bevan from leading figures in the Labour movement. We will be adding new articles and speeches to the site regularly over the next few months, so please keep checking back for fresh developments.


What are they hiding?

Yet again the Coalition shows its total indifference to the views of the public, when unhesitatingly, they decided, that after a near 18 month battle, they ensured that potential risks that could arise from the government’s health reforms will remain hidden. Labour’s shadow health secretary Andy Burnham accused the government of a “cover-up of epic proportions.” An Information Tribunal had ruled in March that the risk register should be published The risk register is a written document drawn up by policymakers that lists the threat to the delivery of services from any changes

The Information Tribunal had ruled that the public interest in publishing the risk register was “very high, if not exceptional” Publication of the of the Risks Register had originally been sought in a freedom information request by John Healey MP, a former Labour health spokesman who called the government’s latest move a “desperate act”.
He added “This decision will only fuel doubts and distrust about the government’s NHS plans, as people rightly ask “What are they hiding from us”.

The Fight Back has Begun

Make the NHS work for us – not big business

The Health and Social Care Act is now law.

The Act outlines the basic policy that will underpin the NHS, but does not give the detail The policy will be determined through secondary legislation and how these regulations will be carried out will be determined locally. This is where you can get involved: join the organisations, like Foundation Trusts, that are being set up and volunteer your time to make the NHS work for our benefit not for the multi-national organisations just waiting to take large chunks out of the NHS budget.

For information about how you can play your part contact:


2012 Annual Bevan Memorial Lecture

The Aneurin Bevan Society is pleased to announce that the 2012 Annual Bevan Memorial
Lecture will be given by Polly Toynbee on Tuesday 30th October at 7 pm
in Westminster. Further details will follow.

Bevan’s Run hits the finishing line

On Sunday 15 January, consultant oncologists Clive Peedell and David Wilson were greeted by a crowd of supporters when they arrived at 10 Downing Street to deliver thousands of ‘Bevan Postcards’ protesting against the Health and Social Care Bill. This was the triumphant conclusion to ‘Bevan’s Run’, which had seen them run from the Bevan Statue outside Cardiff Castle in just six days — a distance of 160 miles, and the equivalent of one marathon a day. (For more information go to

We congratulate Clive, David and all those Bevanites who accompanied and supported them. There has rarely been a better illustration of Nye’s declaration that the NHS “will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.”

Ed Balls gives 2011 Bevan Society Lecture

Ed Balls, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, gave the 2011 Aneurin Bevan Society Annual Lecture, generously sponsored by Community: The Union for Life, in the House of Commons on 1 November. The lecture, entitled ‘A Visionary Pragmatist: Why Bevan is a Labour hero’, will be available on this website shortly.

A recipe for chaos and privatisation

Below we reproduce the UNISON document, ‘The Health and Social Care Bill – still a recipe for chaos and privatisation’, a useful guide to where the NHS stands after the government’s so-called ‘pause’.

Only when full and final details of the Bill are published will we know how much of the original White Paper remains intact, but of great concern must be that the removal of the cap on the amount of private work that a hospital can undertake will remain unchanged.

Bevan’s words declaration that ‘The essence of a satisfactory health service is that the rich and the poor are treated alike, that poverty is not a disability and that wealth is not advantaged’ should be hung in the office of every hospital chief executive!

The Health and Social Care Bill – still a recipe for chaos and privatisation

The government’s proposed changes to the Health and Social Care Bill and associated plans mean that a number of changes that UNISON, Labour and others have been demanding will eventually be made. With the government having yet to publish its actual amendments to the Bill, there are still a number of areas where clarity is lacking. But it seems certain that many of the original problems will remain:

  • The policy of Any Qualified Provider is intact (previously Any Willing Provider), albeit delayed by a year and watered down. This means a break away from Labour’s position of the NHS being the ‘preferred provider’ and will destabilise existing providers by bringing to the NHS a larger role for profit-motivated companies. This is despite similar policies in social care leading to the ongoing Southern Cross crisis.
  • The government says that ‘the Bill does not change EU competition law’. This is not the point; the Bill was never going to change the EU’s own laws. What it did, and will still do, is make it more likely that EU laws can be invoked by disgruntled private providers. The government has freely admitted that once the policy of Any Qualified Provider brings in a wider diversity of providers to the NHS, then EU competition law is more likely to be applicable.
  • The government shows no sign of backtracking on the crucial issue of abolishing the private patient income cap. This means that as waiting lists continue to grow – as they already are doing – NHS patients will find themselves pushed to the back of the queue by those that can afford to pay. After all, hospitals will be under a huge amount of extra pressure to up their income from whatever source possible as they struggle to make savings. The government will require foundation trusts to produce separate accounts for NHS and private-funded services – something that it had already committed to before the ‘pause’ – but there is still no suggestion that this greater transparency will actually be written into the legislation itself. (At the moment it exists only in the Bill’s accompanying documents.)
  • Andrew Lansley has been humiliated, with his plan to free the Secretary of State from responsibility for the NHS dropped. However, this issue has been fudged as the Secretary of State will not be responsible for securing NHS services directly, but rather through other bodies such as the NHS Commissioning Board. The public still expect the Secretary of State to assume responsibility for their NHS, not to keep it at arms length.
  • The government states that it will ‘uphold all of the patient rights in the NHS Constitution’, but there is pointedly no suggestion that staff rights in the NHS Constitution will be honoured. This is hardly surprising, as there has been no movement whatsoever to reaffirm the importance of national structures for staff pay, bargaining, or terms and conditions.
  • The government’s original plans, the uncertainty brought about by the ‘pause’, and now the latest series of U-turns have produced a period of massive instability and uncertainty for the NHS. The government has wasted huge amounts of money on reorganising the service already, despite having no legislative mandate, and many of the latest changes are taking the NHS full circle: for example, Public Health England will now be an executive agency of the DH – not dissimilar from the Health Protection Agency which was abolished as a result of the arms-length bodies review.

Become a Friend of the Aneurin Bevan Society

We will keep you informed of the activities of the Society, and send you an invitation to the annual Bevan Society Lecture every autumn. In addition, every Friend will receive a free copy of the new edition of Nye Bevan’s seminal work In Place of Fear, published by the Society in 2008 to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the NHS, and including an introduction by Gordon Brown. To become a Friend, or to make a donation to the Society’s campaign to defeat the coalition government’s attack on the NHS, please contact the Honorary Secretary, Lawrie Nerva, at 48 College Road, Wembley, London HA9 8RJ (telephone 020 8904 8483, email

The Way Ahead

Following Labour’s defeat in last year’s general election, the Bevan Society, like the rest of the Labour movement, is determined to rebuild the party’s vision and programme for the years ahead. We cannot predict how long the present coalition will survive. But we feel there is no time to be lost in setting out an agenda for the future. We believe that the political philosophy and creative vision for a democratic society outlined by Aneurin Bevan remains not only valid to this day but, given the global crisis in market capitalism, is arguably more relevant today than ever. It may well be true that his concept of taking over the commanding heights of the economy has been overtaken by global events, but the essence of his case remains as firmly relevant as it was in the past.

We are aware that there is today a critical absence of strong ideas and vision across the entire Left, in the UK as well as in Europe, and probably across the globe. We see in China a communist regime struggling to come to terms with international capitalism in an extraordinary amalgam of state capitalism, central political control, an absence of democratic institutions (like trade unions) and only subversive debate. China has been phenomenally successful in economic growth, but the communist government has not developed an answer to the challenge: how to preserve democracy, expand it and develop a socialist ethos in society. For all China’s success, it remains an unstable system. We believe there is much that Aneurin Bevan has to teach us about this challenge as we seek a new agenda for a socialist approach to our problems.

In Britain, Compass is the only significant left-wing group to succeed – so far modestly – in mobilising opinion around such a agenda. The old Tribune Group, once so influential in the Parliamentary Labour Party, is defunct, and despite various attempts, no credible re-grouping has taken place.

This is why we believe the time has been reached – and has perhaps never been more opportune – to seek to re-establish the Aneurin Bevan Society as a platform for such debate among all socialists, and to stimulate discussions along the lines of Bevan’s philosophy, but related to modern circumstances.

It is with these thoughts, these reflections, that we shall be expanding the activities of the Society, and we would welcome your views and indeed individual support for these objectives. To this end we are pleased to have announced (see above) the creation of Friends of the Aneurin Bevan Society, that will enable you to contact us offering your views and assistance. There has never been a more opportune moment for great vision, bold leadership, audacity and courage, as we face the enormous global challenges that lie ahead.

Geoffrey Goodman (Chairman)

Lawrie Nerva (Hon. Secretary)

How should Labour respond to David Cameron’s idea of the Big Society? By reclaiming the Good Society, demanded Jon Cuddas in the 2010 Bevan Society Lecture.

Jon Cruddas MP gave the annual Aneurin Bevan Lecture, under the title Taking Back The Big Society and sponsored by Community, the Union for Life, at the House of Commons on 19 October 2010. Having begun by calling for a re-evaluation of Labour’s ‘fundamental first principles’, he concluded: ‘The Conservatives’ Big Society is founded in its history as the defender of the status quo and the property rights of the rich. They profited from the Satanic Mills. By reclaiming the Good Society, we can again seek to build that Jerusalem.’ Read his inspiring call to arms in the Bevan Society Lecture section.

‘Our greatest national treasure’

‘The NHS is our greatest national treasure’. That’s how UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis describes our health service in a new document, More than Just a Brand – a straight-talking, fact-packed rebuttal of the coalition government’s White Paper.

The planned shake-up of the NHS is ‘an £80bn gamble with no evidence base or electoral mandate, and presents a major threat to the future of the English health service,’ says Prentis.

‘Government plans will turn the NHS into a business where our taxes will increasingly pay for profit-driven companies to provide our healthcare. There will be no limit to the amount of profit hospitals can make.’

Because of that, ‘there is a risk that small and specialised services will be lost and that the quality of care we receive will depend on our postcode.’

The union will be using the document in its campaigning against the white paper and in the Our NHS, Our Future strand of the Million Voices campaign.

You can download the document and learn more about the Million Voices campaign on the UNISON website.

Harriet Harman becomes President of the Society

We are delighted to announce that Rt. Hon. Harriet Harman MP, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, has agreed to serve as Life President of the Aneurin Bevan Society.

Quote of the day

Discontent arises from a knowledge of the possible, as contrasted with the actual.
from In Place of Fear, 1952

More quotes >>