Aneurin Bevan (1897-1960)
Aneurin Bevan was one of the most important ministers of the post-war Labour
government and the chief architect of the National Health Service.
Aneurin Bevan was born on 15 November 1897 in Tredegar in Wales. His father was
a miner and the poor working class family in which Bevan grew up gave him
first-hand experience of the problems of poverty and disease.
Bevan left school at 13 and began working in a local colliery. He became a
trades union activist and won a scholarship to study in London. It was during
this period that he became convinced by the ideas of socialism. During the 1926
General Strike Bevan emerged as one of the leaders of the South Wales miners. In
1934 he married another Labour MP, Jennie Lee.
During World War Two, Bevan was one of the leaders of the left in the House of
Commons. After the landslide Labour victory in the 1945 general election, Bevan
was appointed Minister of Health, responsible for establishing the National
Health Service. On 5 July 1948 the government took over responsibility for all
medical services and there was free diagnosis and treatment for all.
In 1951 Bevan was moved to become minister of labour. Shortly afterwards he
resigned from the government in protest at the introduction of prescription
charges for dental care and spectacles. Bevan led the left wing of the Labour
Party, known as the 'Bevanites', for the next five years. In 1955 he stood as
one of the candidates for party leader but was defeated by Hugh Gaitskell. He
agreed to serve as shadow foreign secretary under Gaitskell.
In 1959 Bevan was elected deputy leader of the Labour Party, although he was
already suffering from terminal cancer. He died on 6 July 1960.