1 The significance of the Labour Gv 45-51 for domestic affairs


The National Health Service

work of BEVAN (former Welsh miner, outstanding personality, had educated himself, efficient)

  • started in 1948: free medical care financed mainly from taxation + National Insurance contributions
  • nationalization of hospitals < same standards of health care in all part of the country, doctors as civil servants ( 90% of the mb of the British Medical Association threatened to boycott the whole scheme in 1948, brightly handled by Bevan)

more expansive than expected (more than £400 million in the 1st year, doubling of prespriptions) =  gov begin charging adults half the cost of false teeth and spectacles in 51 = Bevan resigns.

striking improvement to the working class + sense of citizenship,  of right

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 to promote efficiency and social justice (profit to Welfare State instead of private owners), most triking of Lab's attemps at planning, HERBERT MORRISON

when the government took over an industry it compensated the owners.
1946Coal (rejoicing aong the miners), civil aviation (split into 3 companies), Cable and Wireless (crl of int radio and telegraph services) and the Bank of England =money available to gov. when needed for investment
1947Road transport (create and efficient network), electricity (standarize voltages and price)
1948Gas and railways.
1949Iron and steel (debate, because efficient and profitable when private, no need for help, when all the above industries, except iron and steel, were struggling and short of investment. Became an argument over justice and a free society. The Cons took up the defence of the steel industry and it gave them something to unite behind after their disastrous 1945 election defeat

·         the passing of the Parliamentary Reform Act 1949 stopped the Conservatives from
using their majority in the House of Lords from blocking the legislation.

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The Economy

3 key issues:
• Nationalisation
• Keynesian economics
• Financial problems.

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·         based on keeping the level of demand for goods and services
·         if demand was high, then industrial decline, as happened in the Great Depression of the 1930s, would be avoided and jobs would be preserved.
·         The focus was to keep employment high.
·         only agency with enough power to keep demand high was the government
·         Government should use budgets and spending

• Any artificial boost will help the economy. Money spend will create demand, creating further jobs and profits, which increased demand again.
• The government should be prepared to run up debts and borrow money in the short term at least, so that it could spend money to stimulate the economy.
·         Government was now seen as essential to the running of the economy

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The Government’s financial problems.

By the end of the war in 1945 Britain was burdened with the following;
• Debts of £4198 million
• A balance of payments crisis
• Exports had dropped by 60% during the war.
• The cost of maintaining military commitments abroad had increased five times since
1938. (By the late 1940s Britain was spending 14% of GNP on defence.)
·         A loan was necessary :negotiated loans of $6000 million from the USA and Canada.
·         hope was that as Britain’s economy recovered, she would be able to pay back the
loans with relative ease (never happened due dollar gap)
·         By 1950, Britain’s army was still roughly a million men, and there were huge numbers
of men stationed in the occupied countries of Europe still, especially West Germany.
·         committed to developing its won independent nuclear deterrent
·         spending to that spent on welfare and on repaying debts, as well as the poor economic
situation Britain was in
·          introduce Austerity measures;rationing remained in place; there were few consumer
goods and virtually no luxuries

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The End of the Attlee government.

With BEVAN resigning from the cabinet, several other ministers = end for Labour in power. In the 1950 election their majority was down to five, and there was mounting anger from their own ranks. Another election followed in 1951 which brought the Conservatives to power, which they would hold until 1964.

• Heavy economic and financial difficulties had worn the government down.
• Government was tired, literarily and figuratively.
• Serious divisions between the left and right wings of the Labour Party.
• Labour was seen as a party of high taxation.
• The  promise  of  more  austerity  measures.  Britons  had  become  fed  up  with  the promise of ‘Jam tomorrow’. They wanted it now.

• Entry into the Korean War and slavish following of the USA in foreign policy. Inreality there was no other option.

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 Lab unable able to fulfil its and many of its supporters dreams, but much of this was due to the dire economic realities of the time.


• The Nationalisation programme.
• Creation of the Welfare State.
• Convinced the USA for the need for financial assistance (Marshall Plan).
Indian Independence.
• Major housing programme.
• Formation of NATO
• Britain becoming a nuclear power.
• Hostility to the USSR in the cold war.
No attempt to nationalise major profit making businesses, with the exception of steel. Programme was based on helping out those industries which were struggling.

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Over reliance on the USA economically and militarily. Britain became locked into support for the USA in the cold war and lost its freedom of action in foreign affairs.
• The industrial base of Britain was not modernised or reformed.

• Emphasis on social welfare rather that industry = Britain not ready or able to turn itself into a major manufacturing economy post war. Not produce consumer goods that the post war world demanded. Country of heavy industry, and would remain until the 1980s.
• Welfare was expensive, especially in a time of economic bankruptcy. By borrowing money to pay for welfare, Britain was saddled with debt and economic growth was slow. (By contrast West Germany focussed on industrial recovery before turning to welfare).
• The NHS benefited the middle classes more than those most needy, as the best doctors tended to be in the more affluent areas, and their services were now free. Poorest most hit by the introduction of prescription charges.

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already housing shortages in 39 + 700 000 destroyed in the war + raw materials in short supply and expansive

< BEVAN, construction of over 200 000 houses a year ('prefabs', called by Bevan 'rabbit-hutches') + introduction of rate controls (for tenants who lived in houses owned by private landlords)

but increase in marriages and rapid increase in birth rate after the war = serious housing shortage despite Bevan's archievement

New Towns Act, 46 = more pleasant dev (14 New Town by end of the Lab gov)

Town and Country Planning Act, 47 = Bevan, planning for the next 20 years, more control to the authorities, gov grants

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The Marshall Plan + dev of Cold War

The Marshall Plan 1948
·         Vital to stimulate the economies of countries to enable the American economy to continue to grow, so that other nations could buy her goods + help stop the spread of communism
·         America was offering dollars in exchange from trading concessions.
·         Europe received $15 billion in aid, with Britain getting 10%.
·          further tied Britain to the USA and capitalism.
The Development of the Cold War
·         Britain retained it’s close relationship with the USA.
·         The west became determined to prevent the spread of communism.
·         Britain and America, as the victorious allies of WW2, took the lead in the formation in 1949 of NATO- retention of a vast military force and overseas commitments, as well as the development of a nuclear weapon system.·         1950, Under the banner of the new United Nations, Britain sent forces to Korea, under the leadership of the US

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The Welfare State : New Jerusalem

protection for all ‘from the cradle to the grave

ensure  that  the  ‘five  evil  giants’  of  want  (poverty),  disease,  ignorance  (under education), squalor (poor housing) and idleness (unemployment) should be banished from these shores

 July  1948, four  Acts  of Parliament
The National Insurance Act
The Industrial Injuries Act
The National Health Service Act
The National Assistance Act

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Middle class (pub school, strong social conscience, social work)

mild and inoffensive appearance, quietly-spoken, underestimated : CHURCHILL: 'a sheep in sheep's clothing', 'a modest little man with plenty to be modest about'

but srewd and determined, excellent manager of cabinet

hist HENNESSY: 'he was good at unsing silence as a weapon, cutting off wafflers, absolutely brutal with the inadequate and the incompetent, far more effective than any PM since'

  • PM for six of the hardest years that any government faced,
  • Under his office Britain formed the welfare state, was able to change the whole economic system
  • founding member of NATO and granted independence to India.
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The National Assistance Act + other

National Assistance Act – set up boards to deal with hardship and poverty, not covered by the National Insurance Act < entire populationCreation of National Assistance Boards for further assistance (money from taxation)

Cash benefits + services

Not only local administration (duty to provide homes and other welfare services for the elderly and handicapped)

+ implementation of the Butler Education Act of 44, examination (the 11-plus) for gramar school education or modern schools (or secondary technical schools) -but only selected the required nb of children to fill places available which depended on the county, dif to suitability. + divisive syst

setting up of the Youth Employment Service + expansion of University

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Situation after WW2, context

  • pop had been involved in a 'total war' (complete blackout, entertainment places closed or used as shelters, mass evacuation of children, rationning, conscription -Women's Land Army, Home Guard- bombing from sept 40 to may 41)
  • full employment = workers in stronger position, involved in trade unions
  • vital changes in attitudes : cost of war < Keynes's policies of high spending and high taxation, sense of social solidarity, it was widely felt that the poor, by their co-operation had earned concessions (or fear of a revolution)
  • Much of British industry was ruined or exhausted
  • soldiers returning from war < old jobs and a secure life
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measures and political shift

  • Christian churches and social concern : socialist Archbishop of Canterbury

  • Political and Economic Planning, 42 : new Ministry of Social Security + NHS + national minim wage + family allowances for everybody

  • Beveridge Rep, 42 : WANT, DISEASE, IGNORANCE, SQUALOR (=misère), IDLENESS (=désoeuvrement) and sense of universality

  • Butler Education Act, 44 : secondary education available to all, free of charge and without restriction, school-leaving age raised to 15, setting up of a new Ministry of Education

  • setting up of a Ministry for Reconstruction - 3 White Papers on a NHS, Employment Policy and Social Insurance

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Labour's 1945 victory

1st for 10 years, maj of 146, 72% electorate voting

  • unpopular conservatives: blamed for GD <  MACMILLAN: 'it was not Churchill who lost the election; it was the ghost of Neville CHAMBERLAIN' + failure to prepare Brit for war in time (responsible for getting Brit into war) + poor electioneering campain (£3000) + CHURCHILL = excessive: Lab gov = the kind of feature that were associated with the Gestapo    
  • collective nature of wartime society = feeling for a new start : a land fit for heroes    
  • + Lab figures (ATLEE run the country while CHURCHILL was focusing on war effort) = ministerial experience and public trust + unlike Cons, held party conferences in wartime = organised party offering what people wanted to hear
  • FPSP in fav of Labour (+left-wing army classes)
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The National Insurance Act

extension of the original 1911 act to cover all adults

created universal and compulsory payments by the employer, employee and government, out of which payments would be made in times of sickness, unemployment, maternity expenses, widowhood and retirement (60 for women and 65 for men)

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