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.
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