britain 1906-1951

Britain 1906-1951 Birth of Labour and the Welfare state.

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chapter 1: Liberal landslide election

Liberals win the 1906 election due to the fact that the electorate feel that The Conservatives are not tackling 'bread and butter issues' hard enough. Conservatives lose more than half of their seats. The liberals won 397 and the Conservatives only 156 seats. Conservatives were divided over the issue of tarrif reform. The Government's use of forced Chinese labour in the South African gold mines aroused moral concern, particularly amongst Nonconformists, already incensed by the 1902 Education Act. The trade unions were equally disgruntled by the Conservatives' failure to reverse the Taff Vale judgement. This election brought the dawn of new liberalism and ultimately the demise of the Liberal party.

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Chapter 2: New Liberalism

Classic Liberalism stressed the freedom of speech, worship and supported free trade, overall classic liberalism was classed as 'laisse faire' meaning poverty was no issue of the Governments (opposing social and welfare reform). 

How did new Liberalism develop?

The Boer War raised issues over Britain's national efficiency, Britain was no longer the undisputed super power of the world, rivalled by The USA and Germany. Also the fitness and health of volunteers for the army raised a huge issue, over 80% of men that attempted were turned away due to their ill health (most notably malnutrition). Booth and Rowntree's reports showed that over 1/3 of urban populations could be classed as 'poor' and 1/10 classed as living in 'poverty'. After heavy election defeats in recent elections the Liberals decided that they needed a new direction to follow.

New liberalism: provide 'safety nets' to help the poor and prevent hard working citizens falling into poverty. This would help gather back some Liberals that were influenced by the emerging Labour party in recent elections as well as gaining more middle and working class votes 

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Chapter 2: New Liberal reforms

  • National Insurance Act 1911: workers and employers would contribute weekly to an insurance scheme that the state would top up from taxes. Maternity grants were given to females and a safety net for illness and unemplyment.
  • Old Age Pensions Act 1908: For citizens over the age of 70, gave a pension of five shillings a week for a single pensioner and 7shillings 6p for couples. 
  • Education Act 1906: LEAs given the power to provide free school meals for needy children. By 1914 it provided 14 million school meals
  • Trade Boards Act 1909: set up a minimum wage in certain industries and and inspect the conditions of particular industries.
  • Coal Mines Act 1908-1911: Fix the length of a miners working day to 8 hours.
  • Labour Exchanges Act 1909: Birth of the modern day job centre. Finding jobs for the unemployed. By 1914 they were finding 3000 jobs a day across 430 locations. 
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Chapter 2: Evidence Liberal reforms were not a suc

  • only half of LEAs were providing free school meals in 1913
  • only workers in certain trades benefitted from these reforms (staple industries)
  • national insurance only covered 13/45 million of the population
  • Only people who were a certain age or earned a certain amount could benefit from national insurance.
  • The old age pensions covered act started at 70, 20 years above the average life expectancy in England at the time. 
  • Coal mines were in great need of modernisation at this time and this made no difference to the backwardness of British industry
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