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Why did the Liberal Government place such emphasis on attacking the problem of poverty in the years between 1906-1911?

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Lizzie Godsill 31 October 2003 Why did the Liberal Government place such emphasis on attacking the problem of poverty in the years between 1906-1911? The Liberal government came into power in 1906 after 10 years of Conservative rule. The Conservative Government, lead by Balfour, was dominated by the upper class and they held a large majority of upper class votes across Britain. Not until very late in to the Conservative's rule did they try to do much for poverty in Britain. Chamberlain's Tariff Reform programme was set on improving the national economy which would have directly improved the life style of the working class if it had worked. Balfour was extremely indecisive about this issue and the only work done was by the Royal Commission. The lack of work and support by the Conservatives left the working class in a state of abject poverty and it was the Liberals' job to conquer this problem before it got out of hand. There were several different pressures that drove the Liberals into attacking the problem of poverty and one of them was the pressure from other parties and groups. ...read more.


Until the beginning of the 20th Century the House of Commons largely consisted of the middle and upper classes. At the turn of the century more and more working class people became involved in politics. The main reason for this was the introduction of payment for MPs. Before 1911 MP s were not paid which made it hard for the working class members to support their families as well. With the increase in working class males in parliament, publicity of their concerns was enhanced, making it easier for the Liberals to attack the problems as they knew the specific issues. It was not only the Government that changed in 1906, but also the identity of the Liberal Party. With a new batch of Liberal MP's developing, like Churchill and Lloyd-George, came new ideas and New Liberalism. The change of attitude by the Liberals came from the idea of National Efficiency. The discussion over national efficiency presented new ideas from the Liberals. At the heart of new Liberalism was their new attitude towards the state. ...read more.


Europe was on the brink of war and Britain was lacking in strong and efficient troops. During the Boer War one third of the working class volunteers were turned away from their medical for ill health and the fact they were not physically able to participate in a war. To defeat countries like Germany, British troops needed to be fit and healthy, but the army was having problems recruiting infantry soldiers, of which the majority would have been working class, because of poor health. For Britain to stand on its own in a war the Liberals needed to improve the health and living conditions of males so they could perform the tasks expected of them, in the work place and on the battle field. These points suggest that action would have to have been taken by the government if such people were to make a positive contribution. The debate over National Efficiency made a huge impact on Liberal thinking and ideas both before the 1906 general election, and particularly after it. Many of these ideas and facts drawn out of surveys sparked the new developments of the Liberal regime which directly attacked the problem of poverty between 1906 and 1911. * * * * * ...read more.

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