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History

The Liberal reforms 1906-1914

Reforms and reasons

More reforms passed during this period:

  • 1906 - the Trades Disputes Act ruled that unions were not liable for damages because of strikes.
  • 1906 - the Workers Compensation Act granted compensation for injury at work.
  • 1907 - school medical inspections.
  • 1908 - eight-hour day for miners.
  • 1910 - half-day a week off for shop workers.
  • A Merchant Shipping Act improved conditions for sailors.
  • From 1911, MPs were paid. This gave working men the opportunity to stand for election.

Why did the Liberal government introduce these reforms?

  • Seebohm Rowntree's study of York in 1901 found that 28 per cent of the population did not have the minimum to live on at some time of their life.
  • The Boer War - when Britain went to war in 1899, the army found that two-thirds of the men who volunteered for the army were unfit to join up.
  • Germany - which had a good system of state welfare for workers, was passing Britain as a great industrial power.
  • Strikes, especially in 1910-12, and the growth of trade unionism meant politicians feared that, unless standards of living improved for the workers, they might turn to Communism or rebellion.
  • The Labour Party was growing stronger and it was attracting working-class voters because of its demands for welfare reform.
  • In 1910, the Liberal Party did not get a majority of seats in the House of Commons, so it had a coalition with the 42 Labour Party MPs who had been elected.
  • Many government politicians, especially Lloyd George, genuinely wanted to 'wage war' on poverty.

Back to Britain 1905 - 1975 index

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