Creating the Welfare State • It is often believed that Labour created the welfare state from scratch or just implemented the recommendations of Beveridge • Actually, a national welfare system goes back to the days of Elizabeth I. For example, the Poor Laws • The first modern reforms were made before the First World War by the Liberal government of David Lloyd George • But the 1945-51 government did most to create the modern welfare state. It was part of their heavenly socialist mission to create a New Jerusalem
National Insurance Act (1946) • Key was the idea of ‘universality’ • Benefits would apply to all-rich and poor. There would be no means test • Benefits were paid for by insurance contributions-workers and employers paid in. The benefits were not paid for by taxation • Only school children, pensioners, married women and the self employed were not covered
National Assistance Act (1948) • The unemployed and those that failed to make contributions were covered by the National Assistance Act • A means test was applied • The two acts gave almost universal security from extreme poverty, building on previous legislation
National Health Service Act (1946) • Created a free health system for all • Hospitals were nationalised • The plan was resisted by the BMA-the body which represents GP’s. They feared being turned into state employees • Bevan had to compromise, paying doctors a salary and allowing them to continue private practice. • He was criticised by the left wing of the party • Bevan had bought the doctors off with generous terms, later saying: ‘I stuffed their mouths with gold’. • The NHS was massively important-for the first time people could access free healthcare.
Housing • By 1945 there was a crisis in housing-there were 700,000 fewer houses than 1939. • As Minister for Health-Nye Bevan was responsible for housing. But did he neglect it, as one saying of the period had it, ‘only keeping half a Nye on it’. • He was responsible for two Housing Acts • One of the successes was the creation of 157,000 prefabricated houses as temporary accomodation • By September 1948, 750,000 new homes had been built
The Town and Country Planning Act • Passed in 1947 • Agricultural land was protected • 14 new towns were to be built • For example, Stevenage
Education-The Butler Education Act (1944) • Key piece of legislation passed before Attlee was PM in 1944 by R. A. Butler (a Conservative) • It was Labour who put the reforms into practice • Ellen Wilkinson was appointed Minister for Education • In 1947 the school leaving age was raised to 15-one of the greatest achievements • There was a building programme-928 new primary school buildings were built by 1950 • A tripartite educational system was created which was made up of grammar schools, secondary moderns and technical schools. • But many areas failed to produce technical schools • 25% went to grammars and 75% to secondary moderns • The act had a tremendous impact in providing opportunities for bright working class girls and boys • But there had been criticism for being ‘socially divisive..’
Nationalisation • Private companies were taken over by the government-this is in effect nationalisation • The idea behind this was, as the saying of the time went, ‘people before profit.’ • 1946-Bank of England • January 1947-Cable and Wireless • 1948-Transport and Electricity • 1949-Gas • 1951-Iron and Steel (which was resisted by the Conservatives) • But controversial-mine owners received £164 million for a run down, antique industry • Did nationalisation change anything? For miners, there were clear improvements. The National Coal Board offered paid holidays, sick pay and rest homes for miners to recover after mining accidents. Safety also became an important issue. But the pay of miners did not improve as the strikes in the coal mines clearly indicated.