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The Liberal Reforms (1906-1914)

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Introduction

The Liberal Reforms (1906-1914) Between 1906 and 1914, the lives of many British people were improved due to the introduction of a series of welfare reforms by the Liberal Government. In 1906, the Liberals won the general election based on the values of "old" Liberalism, which favoured Laissez-Faire rather than government intervention. However, with the resignation of Campbell-Bannerman in 1908, and the introduction of David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill to the cabinet, these values were replaced by the values of "new" Liberalism. Both Churchill and Lloyd George were New Liberalists who believed that the state should look after the Welfare of those who could not help themselves. The government identified five main groups of people who were in need of help (the young, old, sick, unemployed and employed) and attempted to aid these groups of people by introducing several reforms. After it was made compulsory for children to attend school until the age of ten, it became obvious that many children were going to school hungry, dirty and/or suffering from ill health and hence were unable to focus on their work. This meant that children were not fully benefiting from the education system. Margaret Macmillan was an educationalist who firmly believed in the adage, "Feed the stomach, then the mind", and she pushed forward educational reforms. Also, the government had recognised that the national efficiency of Britain was facing decline, and decided to counteract this by first helping the young people of the country. Labour backbencher, William Wilson, put forward the idea of free school meals as a Private Member's Bill, and it was so well received in the House of Commons that the Liberals gave it government time. ...read more.

Middle

They were simply reflecting the anti-state attitudes of the "better-off" working class. The Old Age Pensions Act (1908) entitled people over 70 with an annual income of between �21 and �31 to between 1 shilling and 5 shillings a week of a pension. The maximum pension of 5 shillings per week was still 2 shillings short of what Rowntree considered to be the minimum necessary to remain above the "poverty line". There were, however, exceptions. For example, the recipient had to be British and had to have lived in the UK for the previous 20 years. The Old Age Pensions Act made many old age pensioners feel secure and independent, and alleviated some poverty amongst the old in Britain, making the Liberals, and Britain itself, look caring and considerate of the needs of the people. However, many OAPs were still living below the poverty line, and some did not benefit at all as their money went into the poor houses. Also, it could be argued that the Act was actually only introduced as an antidote to Socialism and that if the Liberals truly cared about the welfare of the people, they would have found the extra 2 shillings which were needed to ensure that old people were kept above the poverty line. The Liberals came to realise that reforms were needed to help look after the sick because they had recognised that if people were sick, it was through no fault of their own. Also, they wanted to improve the country's national efficiency and have a good workforce and military. When Lloyd George drew up the People's Budget in 1909, his aims were to tax the rich to finance the national insurance scheme that was in the pipeline. ...read more.

Conclusion

This Act vastly improved the lives of coal miners. Furthermore, the Trade Boards Act (1909) meant that Boards were set up to negotiate minimum wage levels for the badly paid, non-unionised "sweated trades" -box, lace and chain making and tailoring-however, no attempt was made to define what a minimum wage was. Finally, the Shops Act (1911) stated that shop assistants were entitled to a weekly half-day off and a reasonable break for meals, which went a long way towards improving their quality of life. Through these Acts, the government helped coal miners to achieve what they had wanted for 40 years (an eight-hour day), and granted shop assistants a half-day off each week. However, the lives of those in employment had not improved as substantially as they could have been; a minimum wage had not yet been introduced, and compensation was at the employers' discretion. Undoubtedly, from 1906 until 1914, many steps were taken by the Liberals in order to improve the lives of the people of Britain. Young people were cared for more than ever before and given more protection from exploitation. Old people were given hope, dignity and a certain amount of independence thanks to pensions, and the sick and unemployed were guaranteed an income. Also, the employed were given more rights, and were exploited less than in previous times. However, many issues still had to be addressed. The lives of the British people had not been completely transformed and what the Liberals achieved during this period was very limited. The most important development made during this period was that the government had finally begun to take some responsibility for the welfare of the people, which had been in the pipeline for a number of years. ...read more.

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4 star(s)

This is a very detailed response and the author has very strong knowledge. It is well written and thorough but at times, unnecessary narrative precedes evaluation, rather than the author weighing up strengths and weaknesses whilst the reforms were being described. 4 out of 5 stars.

Marked by teacher Natalya Luck 16/07/2013

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