Liberal welfare reforms
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LIBERAL WELFARE REFORMS. Motivation. New Liberalism Booth and Rowntree National Efficiency Continuing with Conservative reforms Threat from new Labour Party Pressure from Trade Unions and Socialist groups. The Young.

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  • New Liberalism

  • Booth and Rowntree

  • National Efficiency

  • Continuing with Conservative reforms

  • Threat from new Labour Party

  • Pressure from Trade Unions and Socialist groups

The Young

  • School Meals Act (1906) – introduced a Labour initiative, allowed local authorities to arrange for school meals

  • School Medical Inspections (1907) – sneaked into a more general administrative Act.

  • Children’s Charter (1908) – forbade child begging, children in pubs or the sale of alcohol/tobacco to children under 16

The Old

  • The Old Age Pensions Act 1909 – pensions of 5s. Per week to persons over 70 years old (7s.6d. To married couples)

  • The People’s Budget – supposed to raise £16m for defence and old age pensions. Budget increased income tax, death duties, licensing, tobacco and spirit duties; new taxes on cars, petrol and land. Rejected in Nov 09 but passed the following April.

The Employed

  • Trade Disputes Act 1906 – reversed the Taff Vale Judgement

  • Workmen’s Compensation Act 1906 – made compensation payable for accidents arising out of the workman’s employment

  • Coal Mines Act 1909 – limited the working day of coalminers to 8 hours

  • Trade Boards Act 1909 – fixed minimum wage for sweated trades


  • National Insurance Act 1911

  • Shops Act 1911 – gave shop workers guaranteed time off work

  • Minimum Wage for miners – 1912

The Sick and Unemployed

  • Labour Exchanges – 1908

  • National Insurance Act 1911 –

    Part I: Sickness Benefit

  • Employees contributed 4d a week, employers contributed 3d a week and the State contributed 2d a week (‘9d for 4d’).

  • Benefits include free medical treatment, maternity benefit and sick pay for up to 26 weeks


  • Part II: Unemployment Benefit

  • Employees contributed 2.5d per week, employers contributed 2.5d per week the State contributed 1 2/3d per week.

  • Benefits included 7s per week for up to 15 weeks paid through the Labour Exchanges

The Parliament Act 1911

  • Came about after the People’s Budget and Constitutional Crisis

  • Reduced the powers of the House of Lords – stall Bills

  • Reduced the life of Parliament to 5 years

  • Gave MPs a wage – set at £400 pa

General Success

  • State became involved in the regulation of life for the young – children better fed, healthier and better educated

  • OAPs were financed from general tax’

  • Pensions were administered by the Post Office removing the shame of the Poor Law

  • Unemployment benefits were administered by the Labour Exchanges

General Criticisms

  • Local Authorities did not have to provide school meals

  • Medical inspections for children merely identified problems – not a solution

  • OAPs were limited to the over 70s

  • Health Insurance only covered the worker, not the family

  • Labour Exchanges were voluntary

  • Unemployment Benefit was for a limited number of industries

Historians’ Views

  • Cross and Williams are of the view that the Liberal Reforms were successful and “laid the foundations of the future Welfare State” C.Cross

  • Evans and Hay think the reforms were more limited: “many participants in the creation of the Liberal reforms had no thought of creating a ‘Welfare State’ of the type which developed after 1945” J.R. Hay

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