Liberal Reform, 1906-14


Reforms for Children

  • Dealt with the provision of school meals and medical inspections
  • Provision of School Meals Act (1906)
  • Local authorities could levy a rate of pay for school meals for needy children
  • Many failed to act until it was made compulsory in 1914
  • Medical Inspections Act (1907)
  • Unhealthy children could not benefit from attending school
  • Most chose to ignore the clause to provide free medical treatmet 
  • Act was tightened up in 1912
  • Additional government grants were given to set up school clinics
  • The Children's Charter (1908)
  • Brought together measures to protect and decriminalise children
  • Juvenile courts were set up so they would not be mixed up with hardened criminals
  • Emphasis was on rehabilitation
  • New penalties for the ill treatment of children 
  • Illegal for children to beg on the street
  • The sale of cigarettes, tobacco and unsealed alcohol was banned to under 16s 
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Reforms for the Elderly

  • Old Age Pensions Act (1908)
  • Non-contributory pension of 5 shilling a week for people aged 70 or over with annual income of £21
  • Pension could be collectd at the post office
  • It was insufficient to raise an elderly person above the poverty line
  • Was given as a right and removed the stigma of applying for help
  • Non-contributory so there was no financial burden
  • Established a collectivist principle of State intervention 
  • Assumed you saved for old age 
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Reforms to Safeguard Workers

  • Passed many reforms to safeguard workers 
  • Secure better working conditions and help the unemployed
  • Many worked in sweated industries such as tailoring 
  • Not covered by the Factory Acts
  • Trade Board Act (1909)
  • Fixed minimum wages for the various trades involved
  • Continued to exclude many trades
  • Shop Act (1911)
  • Gave assistants a half day holiday a week
  • Did not control the maximum number of hours that could be worked 
  • Mines Act (1908)
  • Limited the number of hours a miner could work underground
  • Did not include time spent getting to and from the coal face
  • Labour Exchanges (1909)
  • Advertised local job vacancies 
  • Paid out unemployment benefits 
  • No requirement for the unemployed to register and employers not encouraged to use Exchange
  • Usually to find skilled workers 
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The National Insurance Act (1911)

  • Compulsory scheme
  • Organised in two parts
  • First related to health insurance, second to unemployment insurance
  • Outstanding peace-time achievement
  • Most far-reaching example of State intervention to support workers 
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Health Insurance

  • Compulsory
  • Provided health insurance for those earning less than £160 a year
  • Worker would contribute 4d 
  • Employer = 3d
  • State = 2d
  • Provide sickness benefit of 10 shillings a week for 13 weeks 
  • Free medical attention/medicine
  • George wanted to include widows and orphans 
  • Insurance companies said no
  • Innovative but lacked in that it only catered for the worker, not his family 
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Unemployment Insurance

  • Compulsory
  • Most affected by seasonal variation
  • Employer = 2.5d
  • Employee = 2.5d
  • State = 3d
  • Benefit = 7 shillings a week for 15 weeks in a 12 month period 
  • Covered over 2 million workers
  • Not comphrensive enough 
  • No safety net after time period
  • State contribution = too small 
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Other Reforms

  • The Trade Disputes Act (1906)
  • No case could be brought against a union for damages caused by strike action
  • Peaceful picketing was legal
  • Gave unions a strong legal position 
  • Secured industrial power for years to come 
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