The Liberal reforms 1906-1914
One government that is often seen as an example of 'reforming' by introducing positive changes that really improve peoples' lives is the Liberal government in Britain of 1906-1914. Many historians label this period the beginning of the welfare state [Welfare state: A state (or a country) where the government provides welfare benefits such as education, health care, and unemployment payment to its population free at the point of use, although paid for by general taxation. ], but why did the Liberal government introduce its reforms?
Some governments in history seem to have implemented changes that have particularly improved people's lives. For instance, Roosevelt's New Deal in America, or the Labour government in Britain after the First World War. The dynamism and positive achievements of these governments make them look much better than the governments that came before or after them.
A study of poverty in 1901 by Seebohm Rowntree found that in a society where those who didn't work didn't eat, there were three times in people's lives when they were especially vulnerable:
After 1906, the Liberal government, with Lloyd George as Chancellor of the Exchequer, introduced reforms to help these three groups:
More reforms passed during this period:
Why did the Liberal government introduce these reforms?
|Free school meals||By 1914, 150,000 children were getting one good meal a day.||Not compulsory - some councils did not provide free meals|
|Pensions||Kept many old people out of the workhouse.||Was refused to people who had never worked during their life.|
|Labour exchanges||By 1914, 1 million people were being employed through the labour exchange.||Most of these jobs were temporary or part-time; the government did not do anything to increase the number of jobs available.|
|National Insurance||A vital safety net to tide people over hard times.||Poor people had to pay the contributions out of their wages; dole and sickness pay only lasted for a limited time; and 7s 6d [7s 6d: Seven shillings and six pence in old money (around 38p of today's money). ] was not enough to live on - a family of five needed £1 a week.|
|Free medical treatment||Literally, a life-saver.||Only for the wage-earner - it was not available to their wife or children.|
2. 1909 Budget
The 1909 Budget [Budget: A plan for expected income and spending over a specified time period. ] - to pay for the reforms, Lloyd George's 1909 budget raised duties on tobacco and spirits, raised income tax by 16 per cent (from 1s to 1s 2d), and introduced a new 20 per cent tax on profits from selling land.
3. Parliament Act 1911
When the House of Lords refused to pass Lloyd George's budget, the House of Commons passed an Act stating that the House of Lords could not reject a bill that had been passed three times in the House of Commons. It also required a general election every five, not seven, years.
4. Lloyd George
Lloyd George became loved - old people cried when they got their pension and blessed 'Lloyd George' who gave them - and hated - workers who objected to paying national insurance chanted: 'Taffy was a Welshman, taffy was a thief' at him.
To help familiarise yourself with the reforms, write them out in a table under the column headings of 'Children', 'Old people' and 'Workers'. Sort the refoms into the correct columns.
As part of your revision, think about the arguments and facts you would use to explain: