New Liberalism 1.2

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New Liberalism

This is the reformist ideology given to liberal government. Classic liberalism had stressed the idea of the freedom to do things but new liberalism has the stressors more towards the freedom away from evils such as poverty, low wages and insecurity. It believed that intervention by the state would have a key role in establishing minimum standards on life but it didnt believe on giving full help and didnt believe there should be a slight element on self help. There was a continuing in free trade and freedom to do business without control

However, new liberalism implied more government spemdied which contradicted Liberal emplasis on thrift and low taxation. Radical liberal supporters supported the idea of taxing the rich more heavily and diverting money to the poor. This was all in order to rescue the Liberal party from the split over home rule and a theme to unite them. 

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The extent of poverty

This was a growing concern throughout the 19th century and the number of poor was increasing. The population was increasingly urbanised so increased the number of 'slum' areas so poverty was more visible and acute. There was more fears of disorder and revolution particularly about the idea of new trade unions and more unskilled workers brought waves of strikes.


Charles Booth and Seebohm Rowntree both published findings of poverty. Rowntree investigated areas such as London and Rowntree confirmed results in York. They'd estimated that

  • 30% of the urban population was classified as 'poor'
  • 10% could be classed as 'very poor'
  • The bottom 10% had an insufficient income to meet the bare minimum standard of living
  • Another 20% had incomes only just sufficient to meet the minimum standard
  • These results were both the same in rural areas
  • This meant over a quarter of the population was living in poverty 

This was beyond these peoples control. This change in policy was helped by the idea of national efficiency and the idea of reforms needed. 

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Liberal social reforms

1906 Education Act (provision of meals) - Poor diet

About: There was now the power of local authorities to provide school meals for for needy children

Pros: Enables hungry children to concentrate more and learn more efficiently. By 1914, a total of 14 million school meals a year were being provided by the LEA's

Cons: It wasn't actually compulsary. Not all LEA's were providing these free meals. By 1913 only about half of LEA's were providing meals.

1907 Education Act (medical inspection) - Sickness

About: Set up the School Medical Service and made it compulsary for LEA's to medically inspect school children

Pros: By 1914, 3/4's of LEA's were providign free medical inspections and 2/4's some form of medical treatment

Cons: Only a very cursory check and not always treatment. Poor not always able to afford conditions revealed

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Liberal social reforms

1908 Children act - children

About: Made parental neglect illegal. Juvinile courts were set up and so were borstals for young offenders. It was also illegal to sell tobacco to children

Pros: It tried to ensure a minimum standard of care and protection for children. It differentiated between adult and child.

Cons: Codified alot of existing laws

1908 Old Age Pensions Act - elderly

About: Provided a pension of five shillings a week for a single person and 7s and 6d for a married couple

Pros: It was 'non-contributary' as it was payed out of general taxation and not the contribution of the recipients. There was a regular weekly sum to those who qualified. It was payed through post offices. There were 1 million pensioners, in 1915 more women than men qualifying.

Cons: Only payed the elderly poor who were over 70 on a very low income. Pension was based on a sliding scale so only the poorest got the full amount. Pensioners had to also be of 'good character' with people who worked regularly and didnt have convictions. 

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Liberal social reforms

1909 Trade Boards - low wages

About- Boards set up to fix minimum wages and inspect conditions of certain trades

Pros- Initially covered 200,000, mostly women in four trades eg tailoring and lace making where wages were low and there was no trade union to protect the workers. By 1913, this had been extended to six trades and to coal miners too.

Cons- Only covered the 'sweated trades' and left out many other low paid workers. Too few inspectors to inforce rigorously. No national minimum wage until 1999

1909 Labour Exchanges - workers

About- Set up places where workers looking for a job and employers could meet

Pros- 2 million workers had registered by 1914 and 430 exchanges were finding 3000 jobs a day

Cons- Has been estimated that for every workers who had found a job, three had not. Also the state was not creating jobs for the unemployed and only helping the job market to flow smoothly.

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Liberal social reforms

1911 National Insurance (unemployment) Act - Workers

About- State compelled workers and emplyers in certain trades to contribute weeklyto a national insurance fund. State topped this up out of taxation. Emplyers could receive weekly benefit in unemployed

Pros - Covered 2.25 million workers and provided seven shillings a week for up to 15 weeks. This guarenteed a regular sum of to avoid destitution whilst the breadwinner found another job.

Cons- Only applied to certain trades (the 'insured trades') which were areas such as building or shipbuilding trades. Most workers weren't covered and had to rely on their own savings, trade unions or private insurance. Only came fully operational in 1912.

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Liberal social reforms

1911 National Insurance (Sickness) Act - Workers

About: State organised compulsary scheme for which workers and their employers paid weekly into a national fund. State topped this up through taxation

Pros: Covered some 13 million workers. The scheme paid out weekly 10 shillings a week for 13 weeks and them 5 shillings for a further 13 weeks. There was also a maternity grant for women workers, a disability benefit and free medical treatment with an approved doctor. Also free sanitation for those with TB.

Cons: Only covered workers earning below £160 pa, everyone else still had to look after themselves. Only covered workers aged 16 to 60 and since OAP's began at 70, there was a 10 year gap in povision. The act only covered the contributor (usually father) and not the family. Any hospital treatment had to pair for. This only came effective in 1913 and in total only c13 million of the c45 million population were included in the scheme.

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Other Liberal Social Reforms

1906 Workmens Compensation Act - Workers

Pros: Extended provision of compensating workers for work-based accidents and diseases resulting from their occupations.

Cons: Not always easy to prove that injuries to health were due to work. Only covered £250 pa.

Merchant Shipping Act- Workers

Pros: Improved food and accomodation for merchant seamen

Cons: Only covered British ships and not easy to enforce

Shops Act 1911 - Workers

Pros: Porvided weekly half-day holiday for shop workers

Cons: Employers could make up longer hours on other days

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Other Liberal Social Reforms

Coal Mines Act 1908 and 1911 - working conditions

Pros: Fixed length of working day underground at 8 hours.

Cons: Still occupation with long hours and low pay. Did not cover time taken to get to work. Mining still remained a dangerous job.


Liberals never actually created a full 'welfare state' and only created the 'bare minimum' so major areas were left untouced eg housing was still left at a short supply. Some acts were permissive so councils had to choice to enforce them eg Town Planning Act 1909. They were criticed for not reforming the Poor Law so many elderly were left poor and had to rely on the workhouse. Education was also neglected and the system was way behind rivals such as Germany who had extensive spending on technology and higher education. Due to this many students left school at young ages; as young as 13 as secondary schools weren't sufficient. Booth and Rowntree gathered up a second report in 1936 that showed that only 4% of people lived in primary poverty so actually suggests reforms put in places began to have some effect as there was even war and depression between these times.

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Constitutional and political reform

The constitution was were the most tension was. Between 1909 and 1911 there was the greatest crisis of the 19th century. There was a clash between the Conservative House of Lords and the Liberal House of Commons that resulted in two general elections in 1910. 

The First Constitutional Crisis: The Peoples Budget 1909-1910

Lloyd George needed £15 million of extra revenue in order to provide the new social services and for the construction of naval warships. He set out to tax the rich and those on an unearned income especially. He proposed

  • Increased income taxes from one shilling to one shilling and two pence in the pount on incomes over £3000 a year
  • New supertax on incomes over £5000 a year
  • Increased death duties on estates over £5000 a year
  • New land taxes, the first part was the tax on a greater demand on land and put a duty of 20% on the unearned increase in land value. The second was a duty of 1/2d in the pound on the calue of undeveloped land that hit at those who wanted profits in the future. 
  • Indirect taxes on luxury goods such as motor cars and petrol and beer along with tobacco
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The 1910 General Election

The Liberals tried to fight the election on the issue of whether Britain should be governed by a majority of elected MP's in the House of Commons or by a non-elected hereditary peers in House of Lords and was summarised as the 'Peers versus People'. But this was inacurate as less than half of Britain adults could vote. Lloyd George described the Lords as rich, selfish, unpatriotic men begrudging extra taxes for social reform.

The conservatives suggested that there were other ways to raise the money such as by tariffs on foreign imports and that it was a correct of the House of Lords to restrain governments making sweeping changes. 


 Liberals  Conservatives  Irish Nationalist  Labour party

    275                    273                      82                      40

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The second constitustion crisis of 19010-11

The Parliament Act of 1911

The Liberals were determined that the House of Lords should never again block a measure passed by the Commons . They therfore drew up a bill to curb the power of the Lords by taking away the power of a veto.

It proposed:

  • The Lords were never to have the power to amend of reject those bills that the speaker of the house cetified true money bills
  • The Lords was never to have power to reject (or veto) other legislation, but could delay it for no longer than two years. This was known as 'suspensory veto'
  • The maximum period between general elections was to be reduced; seven years to five 

But it still had to pass the Lords. Asquaith asked King Edward II to create Liberal peers. He died so George V tried to get the Liberals and the Conservatives to come to an agreement. A Constituational Conference was held; it broke down after the cons. wanted to still veto any legislation (eg Irish Home Rule) unless there was a change to the referendum. There was new pears created as long as the Liberals won the election on the issue.

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The December 1910 General Election

This election left the Conservatives and the Liberals with the exact same amount of seats; 272 each, but because they had the support of Labour with 42 seats and Irish Nationalists with 84 seats, so the Liberals could work on a majority and could remain in government. In May 1911, the Parliament Bill was passed in the commons. 

'The Rats' felt they should cooperate with the bill and others names the 'hedgers' were undecisive; in addition; the 'diehards' or 'ditchers' were determined to oppose the bill. Overall, many conservatives felt the consequences of not accepting the bill would be worse than not accepting them. 

August 1911, the reading of the Parliament Bill without amendments took place. Most conservative opposition was from the 'hedgers' and there wasnt a majority Liberal oppostion in the Lords. It became law- 131 Liberal votes to 114 'diehards'. This split the Conservative party so Balfour was forced to resign and Andrew ***** Law became leader.

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Other Political Reforms

Labour demanded some redress after the Osbourne court case on 1908-09 which threatened the existance of their party. He was a railway trade unionist who supported the Liberal party. He objected Labour using some of their yearly subscription to help fund the Labour party but this was ruled in his favour which then reduced the amount of funds Labout received to pay for MP's, fund elections and the running of the party.

The Liberals remedied the situation by passing the payment of MP's Act in 1911. Before 1911 members of parliament received no salery so only those with a private income could afford to be MP's provided £400 a year.

Also, the Liberals passed a new Trade Union Act in 1913 that allowed unions to impose a 'political levy' as part of members fees, provided that members could 'contract out' . Those trade unionists who did not with the support the Laboiut party financially could refuse to pay part of their subscription which the party received.

Liberals did nothing but extend the vote which was still denied to all females despite the activities of the suffragettes and the Women's Suffrage Union.

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The Third Irish Home Rule Bill 1912

The Liberals wered dependent of the support of the 84 Irish Nationalist MP's in the commons which was lead by John Redmond. This measure would give Ireland its own parliament with its power to make laws purely on Irish matters whilst Britain would have the power to keep control over foreign policy, defense, trade, pensions and national insurance. Under terms, Ireland would still send MP's to westminster.


The conservatives had long opposed Irish home rule and supported the cause of ulster unionists who were protistant and lived in the north east corner of Ireland. The Conservatives argued that Irish Home Rule would undermine Britains power status by breaking up the UK with its empire.They thought the Liberals had no authority to change the constitution of the UK as it had been an issue since the 1910 elections. Ulster was only a partial part of Ireland that was indistrialised with a large shipbuilding industry and ulster unionists didnt want to loose this control and felt that Belfast had more in common with cities such as Glasgow or Liverpool than Dublin and didnt want to be taxed heavily.

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The Third Irish Home Rule Bill 1912

Before 1911 Ulster Unionists had relied upon the House of Lords to veto any Home Rule bill but with the power gome they began to organise themselves under Edward Caron; He drew up the Ulster Covenant to frighten off the Liberals attmept to put Ulster under the rule of Dublin. Carson began to create an army to resist the imposition of an all-Irish parliament. In 1914 he had the support of smuggling 30,000 rifles and 3 million amunition into Larne. ***** Law offered his support and British officers threatened to resign rather than fight.

The Irish Nationalists countered this by creating an amy of their own to enforce Home Rule (the Irish Volunteers). They too managed to smuggle rifles and ammunition creating a scare of civil war. 

The law was due to be put into place in autumn 1914 following a 2 year delay from the Lords. Talks between parties failed to reach an agreement but civil war was averted due to the outbreak of war so it was suspended, and unresolved.

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