Successes of the Labour Reforms


Poverty - Problem

  • Poor people were unable to look after their own welfare.
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Poverty - Actions

The National Insurance Act 1946.

  • A system of benefits based upon weekly insurance contributions.
  • This was labours attempt to introduce a comprehensive and universal system of benefits.
  • Provided benefits for the unemployed, the sick, the retired, widows, guardians and mothers.
  • Everyone but married women and self-employed people earning under £2 a week were included.
  • People who received benefits received £1.30 a week for a single adult and £2.10 a couple.

The National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act 1946.

  • A sub-clause of the National Insurance act, which was designed to supplement an employees income if they were injured at work.
  • An injured worker got £2.25 per week.

The National Assistance Act 1948

  • There were people who, through not making National Insurance payments, would not qualify for benefits. These people may be disabled, sick old or have fallen on hard times.
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Poverty - Successes


  • The system of benefits in the National Insurance act 1946 provided for people 'from cradle to grave'
  • The monatery value of benefits increased in real terms from previously.
  • National Assistance Act provided a safety net to prevent people falling into abject poverty.
  • Poverty on the scale of the 1930s was never seen again.


  • The rate of National Insurance benefits remained fixed for 5 years and did not increase with inflation. Prices of other items went up, so benefits were worth less.
  • Caused more people to apply for National Assistance benefit, which in 1949, was helping 1 million people.

"Britain remained aprofoundly unequal and class ridden society."

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Health - Problems

  • There was no uniform hospital service.
  • There were voluntary hospitals, but they were not good.
  • There were good private hospitals but they were very expensive.
  • Doctors were afraid that the introduction of the NHS would degrade their reputation as professionals.
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Health - Actions

  • Voluntary hospitals were nationalised. This meant the state could ensure that all hospitals provided the same high level of care.
  • The hospitals were controlled and planned centrally.
  • Doctors would have to take on a certain amount of NHS patients, but at the same time, could still treat privately.
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Health - Successes


  • Labour introduced a healthcare service that was free for everyone. The amount of people that used the NHS proved how popular it was.
  • Due to the centralising of control of all hospitals, they were able to keep the same high standard of healthcare allover the country.

"The right to turn up at a casualty department late on a Friday night... demanding immediate treatment, is one of our essential liberties


  • However, no one saw the huge cost coming. It was estimated to cost £170m in the first year, it actually cost £242m. This continued to grow as it was more widely used.
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Housing - Problems

  • Over half a million homes had been destroyed by German bombing in WWII.
  • 2/3 of the labour force were still away fighting, so there were not enough peope around to build the houses.
  • It was thought that in 1945, at least 4 million would have to be built in the next 12 years to cope.
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Housing - Actions

The hosuing Acts 1946 and 1949

  • The government gave subsidies to local councils, who in turn, would rebuild and repair damaged houses.
  • 'Prefabs' were erected. They were only meant to be temporary, but proved quite popular because of modern amenities such as fitted bathrooms and kitchens.

The New Towns Acts 1946 and 1949

  • The government bought up plots of land, on which they intended to build new towns; 14 in total.

The Town and Country Planning Act 1947

  • The focal point of this act was to rebuild London
  • A green belt was created around London that would stop the urban sprawl. The new satellite towns were to be built outside the green belt.
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Housing - Successes


  • Labour built 1.25 million homes of high quality between 1945 and 51.
  • Prefabs worked incredibly well in making up the shortfall in the demand for new homes.
  • New Towns Act and the Town and Country Planning Act provided central planning and direction for urban regeneration.

"The new towns of great britain were, and still are, one of the greatest post-war successes" - Ling.


  • There were still over 750,000 people waiting to be housed in 1951.
  • The new towns were taking longer han expected to be built.
  • It can also be argued that even without Labour policies, a housing boom would have occurred, as there was such a high demand for them.
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Education - Problems

  • The education system - like healthcare - was not centrally controlled and differed greatly in quality.
  • Most children got basic education from 5-14.
  • Private schools were available, but they were expensive and only schooled 12% of the population.
  • There was a 70,000 teacher shortage in post-war Britain.
  • Bombs destroyed many schools in WWII. 5,000 new schools needed to be built.
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Education - Actions

The Butler Education Act 1944

  • It raised the age of which children could leave school to 15.
  • It provided free secondary education to all of age over 11 years old.
  • A tripartite system was implemented, which provided schooling based on the needs and abilities of individuals.
  • The 11 plus exams determined whether a pupil went to Grammar school, Technical school or secondary modern school.

Other Actions

  • Emergency Teacher Training Colleges were set up to deal with the shortage of teachers.
  • Prefabricated classrooms were built to deal with the lack of schools.
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Education - Successes


  • Free secondary education for all, meant people had a chance regardless of wealth.
  • ETCs managed to train 35,000 teachers fairly quickly.
  • Classrooms were quickly erected.
  • Spending on education as a percentage of national income rose from 2% in 1939 to 2.7% in 1949.


  • Most of the actions taken were as a result of the Butler Education Act 1944, which was a Conservative Initiative.
  • Labour came under criticism for not abolishing private schools to provide the same education for all.
  • Many saw the 11 plus system as elitist, as only a small percent of people got the best education.
  • The 11 plus system decided a child's future far too early.

"In state education... school standards varied greatly" - Addison.

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Unemployment - Problems

  • There was mass unemployment in the 1930s that no one wanted to return to.
  • By solving the unemployment problem, the problem of poverty would be solved.
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Unemployment - Actions

  • Labour committed themselves to achieving full unemployment. This meant that no more than 3% of the country could be unemployed at one time.
  • The government took control of key industries and services throughout the country. They then created jobs within these industries and gave them to people.
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Unemployment - Successes


  • Full employment was achieved (2.5%). This held the causes of poverty at bay.
  • Nationalisation of industries such as coal, steel and transport kept many people at work in the short-term.
  • Nationalisation was very popular, as it was not reversed until the 1980s. Even the conservatives left it as it was.


  • Arguably, Britain would have achieved full employment after the war anyway, as there was a lot of work that needed doing. It was not due to Labour specifically.

"Nationalisation actually hindered Britain as it removed the competitiveness from the various industries." - Corelli Barnett.

"By 1947, Britain was producing a lot less coal than before the war" - Andrew Marr.

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