We are expecting an interested audience. The prime minister, a keen student of history and the politics of the welfare state, couldn't be there, but he has sent a message of support...
Sometimes ideas are more than simple passing notions – some are insurrections in the human imagination, ways of looking at the world which once unleashed mean society can never be the same again. So it was with Beatrice Webb's 1909 Minority Report to the Royal Commission on the Poor. The report was a landmark moment in the history of political ideas; the first call for not just the abolition of the workhouse but for its replacement with a modern welfare state and national health service.
These ideas of 1909 and the public argument which they began were to guide the post war Labour government as they set about the most radical transformation of Britain in half a century.
While the politics and policy challenges of the global age are often very different, it is right that we should be inspired in our tasks by the progressive giants who came before. So I salute the efforts of the Fabian Society and Webb Memorial Trust in commemorating this centenary and asking how the ideas and campaigns of a century ago can inspire this generation as we work to build in this place and in our time that which Fabians have always dreamed of: the fair society.
I’m sorry not to be with you today but look forward to hearing the results of your deliberations.
With warm best wishes,