Philip Le Feuvre

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Philip Le Feuvre

Philip Le Feuvre (1892 – 14 December 1955) was a Jersey Deputy and Senator, and the architect of the Social Insurance scheme, Jersey’s version of National Insurance.

Early Years

Born in St Mary, Philip Le Feuvre grew up the son of a farmer in St Lawrence, and was educated at St Lawrence School. He was elected a centenier and selected as an “expert” for that parish's administration.

Le Feuvre was elected President of the Jersey Farmers’ Union in 1937. He continued to farm, although part of his greenhouse at St Mary was used during the war to shelter an escaped Russian prisoner

Election to the States

In 1937 Le Feuvre was elected to the States as Deputy for St Mary. There he quickly joined the Labour department, under the presidency of Deputy Edward Le Quesne. During the Occupation the Labour department worked hard to provide employment for islanders, knowing that it was possible that unemployed people would be taken as forced labour (in the event the Germans were scrupulous in obeying the Geneva Convention).

Towards the end of the war Le Feuvre became chairman of the Social Assurance committee On 8 May 1945, the States charged the SAC with studying the question of Social Assurance in its entirety, including old age pensions. Until this point, social assurance had been a matter for the various parish Poor Law commissions.

Le Feuvre’s first report, brought in 1946, proposed a single universal compulsory scheme. The first priority was to be Old Age Pensions, followed by a stamp to cover sickness benefit, support for dependents and children. However, although the States agreed to send the report forward for further study, there was little progress as other significant issues – such as States reform – were pursued.

Senator

Le Feuvre was a candidate in the first senatorial election on 9 November 1948. He topped the poll with 8215 votes, on a platform of implementing Social Security. The first step towards this was the non-contributory pension voted in on 2 December 1948. This covered people over the age of 70 and blind people of 40 or over. It was not automatically granted – pensioners had to apply – but within the month, over two-thirds of those eligible had applied.

At this point things went awry. The summer of 1949 was a bad one for both Jersey agriculture and the UK economy (on September 19 that year sterling was devalued against the dollar by almost 30%), and the Evening Post, until then a supporter of Le Feuvre’s platform, turned against it. Meetings in several country parishes took a similar tenor.

Le Feuvre presented the Bill to the States on 15 November 1949. The vote on the preamble was lost 24 to 23 and the Bill was automatically thrown out with it. However, at the sitting the following day it was made clear that the non-contributory pension was now unfunded, and the responsibility of either funding it or withdrawing it would fall to the parish Constables (ten of whom had voted against).

Temporary legislation was passed to allow the pension to continue until June 1950, and on 22 May 1950 Le Feuvre brought the Insular Insurance Bill back to the States. In spite of opposition the preamble passed by 28 votes to 17. It passed its third and final reading on 14 July 1950, and came into force on 18 November of that year. In spite of a final attempt at a wrecking amendment, the appointed day (the date when the insurance scheme would come into full force) was set to 10 September 1951.

Pyrrhic Victory

On 31 July 1951, Deputy J J Le Marquand presented a Petition at St Ouen’s Parish Hall calling for the appointed day to be deferred. The organisers were efficient and it gathered momentum, aided by the attitude of the Honorary Police (certain of whom broke the law by collecting signatures). Le Feuvre went out to meetings where those presiding did not assist him in getting a fair hearing.

The petition was brought to the States on 24 August 1951 and lodged au greffe. The following week, on 1 September, a meeting was held in People’s Park, at which a supporter of the Bill, Deputy Venables, was attacked. Finally, on 7 September, Deputy Le Marquand’s petition and projet d’acte was debated. Le Feuvre defended the planned insurance scheme and the projet was defeated by 28 votes to 23.

Although Le Feuvre had won, there were ugly scenes in the Royal Square (according to the Daily Graphic, "potatoes, tomatoes and other missiles" were thrown at supporters of the new law). And that same evening, at a meeting held in the Town Hall, the membership of the JFU demanded his resignation as President. He stepped down on 10 September.

Legacy

The office block in La Motte Street which houses the Social Security Department was named Philip Le Feuvre House.

References

Mary Philips: Poor People (JHT, 2001)

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