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 1929, Bevan was elected as the Labour member of parliament for Ebbw Vale. 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.