The Speenhamland System - Richard Benyon MP on Radio 4 this morning.
This morning, Our local MP Richard Benyon joined historian Jeremy Seabrook and Dr Stephen Davies, Education Director of the Institute of Economic Affairs, to discuss the Speenhamland system, devised at the Pelican Inn, Speen, in 1795.
The old Pelican Inn
Where the Speenhamland System was devised in 1795
The system was devised by a number of local magistrates to alleviate the distress caused by high grain prices. Essentially, families were paid extra to top up wages to a set level, during periods of high inflation, with the level varying depending upon the number of children in a family and the price of bread, used as a wage stabiliser.
Richard said, "It was a great pleasure to be able to discuss local history, not least because of the Speenhamland system's importance - so much so that William Pitt the Younger attempted to pass the system into legislation."
Richard continued, "There are many analogies that one can draw, but what really strikes me is that employers paid lower wages in the late 18th Century, in the knowledge that the system subsidised income, whereas at the beginning of the 21st Century the parallel is with tax credits and the minimum wage. Many of us want to see the minimum wage rise, as currently people on low incomes are subsidised through increasingly unaffordable tax credits rather than being paid a higher wage."
As has always been, one man's safety net is another's profit. Ironic really, deep blue Tory Newbury invented the precursor to the modern welfare state. Of course, once our forefathers saw the cost, the next step was to introduce workhouses; is that next on today's political agenda?