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Liberal reform 1906-1914

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Liberal reform 1906-1914 The huge scale of the Liberal party's victory in the 1906 general election guaranteed many new faces among the ranks of Liberal MPs, in favour of change in the field of social welfare. Between the years 1906 and 1914, the Liberals took steps to improve the health standards and the living and working conditions of the lower class. The main areas of people new legislation was targeted on was the working class under risk of poverty due to sickness or unemployment, their children and old age pensioners. The effectiveness of Liberal rule on these matters is not clear, as much of the legislation introduced to solve poverty problems, can be argued to be unsuccessful at what it was intended to achieve. The first task undertaken by the new Liberal government was the welfare of children. The issue of malnourished children had increasingly surfaced since the extension of rate aid to all schools and creation of Local Education Authorities in 1902, so the issue of children too hungry or generally debilitated was well documented by 1906. A report from the Committee on Physical Deterioration noted inadequate feeding-"It is the height of cruelty to subject half starved children to the process of education". To solve this problem the government introduced the Education Act of 1906. ...read more.


The British Medical Association was appeased through the panel system, which allowed insured patients to choose their own doctor from the panel of practitioners under the control of a local health committee. This proved popular with the less well off doctors, especially those in the inner cities, who quickly saw that their incomes must rise from this new source of patients. The National Insurance Act was in two distinct parts. Part one dealt with health insurance and part two with unemployment insurance. For health purposes all workers earning less than £160 a year and aged between 16 and 60 were included-around 15 million in all. A sickness benefit of 10s per week for 13 weeks (7s 6d for women) and 5s a week for a further 13 weeks there after was the main entitlement. Others included were a 30s maternity grant, 5s a week disability benefits and free medical treatment under a panel doctor. This act was a positive move by the Liberals towards reducing poverty, as due to health levels being so bad at the time many were left sick with no way of receiving money. On the other hand, this Act may not have been very successful due to a number of reasons. The fact that this scheme did not cover hospital treatment, except admission to the sanatorium intended to benefit tuberculosis sufferers, increased the risk of poverty. ...read more.


Therefore, Liberal legislation was successful on a small scale considering it did not effectively improve the poverty levels of the whole nation. Lastly, it can be argued that the Liberal rule was very successful in terms of the scale of task with which the new government was faced. The fact that the House of Lords was mainly Conservative meant that the Liberal legislation programme was regularly opposed, because Conservatives regarded Liberal policies as confiscation to property rights and a threat to any idea of individual responsibility. This can justify the amount of time taken to introduce various laws, such as the National Insurance Act and the Pensions Act. The amount of people below the poverty line at the time was estimated at being as high as one third of the population. A view that no other government could have dealt with the situation of poverty any more effectively at that time adds to the theory that the Liberals were as successful as they could have been under the circumstances. Liberal legislation between the years of 1906 to 1914 laid the foundations of a welfare state. The time spent in power may not have been long enough for the Liberal reform to make a clear improvement to the poverty situation due to the social state of the nation being so bad. This view shows that the Liberals were very successful at dealing with the situation if considering the magnitude of task they undertook. ...read more.

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