S5 The Liberal Reforms


Effects and Limitations of some significant Liberal Reforms
 

  • SOME INDIVIDUAL REFORMS - THEIR EFFECTS AND LIMITATIONS

    • TRADE DISPUTES ACT 1906 and TRADE UNION ACT 1913

      • The Trade Disputes Act 1906 was a Labour Bill in origin and the Liberals passed it without changing it because they were short of time. This meant that it was more far reaching in its support of the Trade Union Power than many Liberals would have wanted.

      • However it took until 1913 before the TRADE UNION ACT remedied the situation caused by the Osborne Judgement of 1909 which restricted the ability of Trade Unions to raise funds through charging a compulsory 'political levy' from its members. Also the Trade Unions were dissatisfied with the extent of real help given to the working class through the Liberal reforms.

    • EDUCATION (PROVISION OF MEALS) ACT, 1906

      • Gave local authorities the power to spend some of their budget on free school meals if they wished to do so. By 1914 almost half the authorities in England and Wales were providing meals.

      • Only enabling legislation, NOT COMPELLING. Authorities were not forced to provide meals so by 1914 less than half of the authorities were providing meals. In this year the government made it compulsory.

    • EDUCATION (ADMINISTRATIVE PROVISIONS) ACT, 1907

      • Compulsory medical inspection for ALL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PUPILS was sneaked in through a wider administrative provisions document. This ensured that every child in Britain would be entitled to a free medical examination.

      • However, the funds were generally not available to provide treatment for the illnesses uncovered by these medical inspections.

    • OLD AGE PENSIONS ACT, 1908

      • Payable from January 1909. It was a non-contributory benefit meaning that people did not have to pay anything toward it. At age 70 you would receive between 1 shilling and the maximum payment of 5 shillings a week depending on your income from other sources. The maximum income was £31 a year. Above this you received no pension. Those with less than £21 a year from other sources received the maximum five shillings. It was enormously popular with those who received it as they saw it as 'something for nothing' from the government.

      • However, it was argued that the maximum 5 shilling payment was still 2 shillings short of Rowntree's poverty line. Also the NCOL had been campaigning for pensions at 65 not 70. The government was cutting costs by pushing the qualifying age to a point where less people would survive to claim it. There were also a number of exemptions some of which bore the hallmarks of the old Poor Law moral categories of 'deserving' and 'undeserving' poor. For instance if you had been arrested for drunkenness in the past ten years or imprisoned at all in the past 10 years or were judged to have habitually avoided work, you were not eligible for a pension.

    • NATIONAL INSURANCE ACT, 1911 PART 1 Health Insurance

      • Provided by a WEEKLY CONTRIBUTORY FUND into which the worker paid 4d, the employer paid 3d and the state paid 2d every week. Benefits: 10 shillings a week sick pay for 13 weeks. Free medical attention and medicines and a sanatoria allowance if he contracted tuberculosis. Also a maternity grant of 30 shillings was payable if his wife fell pregnant

      • Criticisms of the Health Insurance provision - Only on offer to those earning less than £160 a year. The benefits (apart from the maternity grant) only applied to the insured worker, not his wife or children. The small state contribution of 2d a week made some people say that the government was not really providing health insurance, just making employees and employers provide their own.

      • NATIONAL INSURANCE ACT, 1911 Part 2 Unemployment Insurance

        • WEEKLY CONTRIBUTORY FUND - worker paid 2 and a half d, employer paid 2 and a half d, state paid 2d a week. Benefit was 7 shillings a week up to maximum of 15 weeks in any 12 month period. Soon 2.25 million men were protected by this scheme

        • Criticisms of the Unemployment Insurance provision. It only covered a certain number of trades where the demand for labour fluctuated most; shipbuilding, building, mechanical engineering, iron-founding, vehicle construction and sawmilling. No benefit was payable if still unemployed after 15 weeks. Again the state was criticised for making too small a contribution to the fund.

    • THE EMPLOYED The various Acts to improve working conditions for employed people were generally less controversial and for the most part did achieve some improvement in the working conditions for some people.
      • The clearest evidence of success among the measures to help the employed it could be argued were the Mines Act, 1908 which gave miners an 8 hour day. The Trade Boards Act, 1909 which fixed minimum wages in some of the 'sweated industries' such as tailoring, lace-making, box making and chain-making. The Labour Exchanges Act, 1909 which sought to remove the inefficient and demoralising system whereby workers stood outside factory and shipyard gates waiting to be taken on as casual labour.

      • However it was argued that generally for the working class, real wages did not rise quickly enough to keep pace with the rising cost of living.