Disraeli's Social Reforms


The Artisans' Dwelling Act, 1875

  • Too many 'labouring poor' lived in deplorale jerry-built houses
  • Insanitary and overcrowded
  • Contributed to major outbreaks of disease
  • Home Secretary = Richard Cross 
  • Concerned to improve the state of housing in the large industrial slums 
  • Without creating the prcedent that it was the 'duty' of government to provide 'good and habitable dwellings'
  • Major innovation of the act lay in the power it gave the local authority to purchase, clear and then redevelop slums
  • Financed the scheme with low-interest government loans
  • Absence of a compulsory purchase order reduced its effectiveness
  • Many city councils chose to ignore it
  • Exception = BirminghamCouncil
  • Led and inspired by Radical MP Joseph Chamberlain
  • Long-term importance was that it established the principle of State intervention with regard to private dwelling houses
  • Marked the beginning of local authority housing 
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Public Health

  • 1875 = the Head of the Local Government Board, Booth, introduced an act that pulled together all existing sanitary legislation, which up until then had fallen short of tackling current health problems 
  • Built on the Public Health Acts of 1866 and 1872 
  • Laid down minimum standards of drainage, sweage disposal and refuse
  • Made compulsory the appointment of a medical officer of health 
  • Charged with reporting all infectious diseases
  • Public workers were established in most districts to replace private water companies and sellers
  • Act was hailed as a great success
  • Measure of consolidation rather than innovation
  • Opposition came from laissez-faire - saw the measure as involving too much State invervention 
  • Interference with personal freedom 
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Public Health

Sale of Food and Drugs Act 1885

  • Attempt to stamp out the dishonest, and sometimes dangerous, practice of adulteration of food
  • Most common and least damaging was to add chalk to flour
  • More disturbing = adding lead into bread
  • Well-structured attempt to regulate the food industry
  • Reluctancce to make compulsory the appointment of food analysts by local authorities reduced its impac

The Rivers Pollution Act 1885

  • Same problem but with 'noxious fluids' being dumped into rivers
  • Harsh measures were opposed
  • Prosecutions could only be authorised by the central Local Goverment Board
  • Few were carried out 
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Labour Relations and Trade Union Legislation

The 1875 Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act 

  • Replaced the unpopular Criminal Law Amendment Act
  • Altered the conspiracy laws 
  • Unions could no longer be prosecuted for doing anything collectively that would be legal if done by an individual 
  • Legalised peaceful picketing 
  • Gave the unions the right to strike
  • Strengthened the position of the trade unions

The Employers and Workmen Act 1875

  • Introduced a contract of service 
  • Gave employees terms that were on par with those of employers
  • Both sides were to be liable under civil law 
  • Removed the unfair system of employees being liable for breach of contract
  • Major step in labour law reform
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Factory Legislation

  • Consolidation of the previous Factory Acts 
  • Set the code for regulations for conditions in factories
  • The Lancashire MPs had campaigned for a maximum nine-hour working day
  • The government responded by reducing the six-day working week for women and young people to five
  • Half a day on a saturday
  • Not in a position to negotiate themselves and therefore required the protection of the law 
  • Maxmium number of hours a week = 56
  • Indirectly reduced men's working hours
  • Brought other industries in line with the textile industry 
  • All factories came under the same umbrella of a State inspectorate
  • Important reform 
  • Established the principle of State offering protection to industrial workers 
  • Pressure from both Conservative MPs and trade unios was brought to bear on the government to introduce this legislation 
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The Merchant Shipping Act, 1876

  • Good example of Tory Democracy
  • Impetus came from Sam Plimsoll
  • No legislation in place to protect seamen from the atrocious living conditions on board the ship and conditions of employment at sea
  • No regulations in place to control the overloading of ships - put sailors in danger
  • Lagged behind other groups of worers
  • No merchant seaman trade union
  • Introduced regular inspections of ships by the Board of Trade officials
  • Better accomodation for sailors on board
  • Introduction of the 'Plimsoll Line' - load line drawn on every ship
  • Hard-fought reform was not compulsory 
  • Not fully implemented until 1890
  • Great landmarks of State intervention in helping to secure the safety of a particular group of workers 
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Other Measures

Lord Sandon's Education Act in 1876:

  • Attempted to improve school attendance by setting up school attendance committees
  • Stopped short of compulsory attendance
  • Children couldn't get a job without an attendance certificate 
  • Became in the parent's best interests for the children to attend school
  • Responsibility was pushed on to parents to make them answerable by law for non-attendance
  • Supported the Anglican Schools
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