How effectively did the Liberal Government (1906 – 1914) deal with the problem of poverty?
Pick out the keywords in the question. Note the timescale How effectivelydid theLiberal Government (1906 – 1914)deal with theproblem of poverty? • Issue • Extent of poverty • Implications for government policy • Actions taken • Type of Question • Analysis of how well the government tackled the problem as opposed to just what they did
Draw up a basic plan • Identify extent of poverty i.e. definition of poverty and evidence of poverty (Booth, Rowntree) • Set out the aims of government (‘national efficiency’, political considerations, social justice) • Analysis of main areas tackled • Child poverty • Old Age • Provisions for wage earners • Indirect measures
Quote Context/Question A popular view of the Liberal reforms (1906-1914) has been to view them as tackling the problem of poverty by laying the foundation of the welfare state. However, this is a view which many historians have challenged.Marwick has characterised them as falling within “a limited filling-the-gaps tradition bearing no more than the faintest distant relationship to the idea of a comprehensive welfarestate”. Undoubtedly the reforms were revolutionary for the time and were seen as such. However there is evidence to suggest that they were less than successful at tackling the major problem of poverty in early twentieth century Britain. Measures to help the old, the young and the unemployed did have a positive effect on people’s lives and reduced poverty, as did legislation such as the 1911 Parliament Act. However, the scale of the task to reduce poverty was a considerable one. Line of argument Link sentence
Extent of poverty • Booth’s concept of the poverty line and Rowntree’s ideas of Primary/Secondary poverty • In the late 1800s, an estimated 30% of allLondoners were in poverty and only 3% of these families were being helped by the Poor Law. • In York, Rowntree found that 27.3% of people were in poverty in 1899. • By the early 20th century it was recognised that laissez faire was failing and casual labour, poor pay and unemployment were keeping large numbers of the ‘deserving’ poor in poverty.
Aims of government • Concerns over national efficiency due to poor physical condition of many of the working classes (e.g. 50% of Boer War recruits rejected on health grounds). • Rise of Labour Party threatened the political strength of the Liberals if the concerns of the working classes were not addressed. • Ideals of social justice developed and New Liberalism believed that only the state could tackle the most severe social problems.
Analysis of main areas tackled What did the Liberals do? How effective was this? • CHILD POVERTY • 1906 Free school meals • By 1914, 14 million meals were provided in total (1906 = 3 million) • However, less than half of all local authorities provided meals in 1912 • Detected a great deal of medical problems e.g. in Glasgow, 30% of children were found to be “verminous” • 1907 Compulsory medical inspection of all schoolchildren
What did the Liberals do? How effective was this? • Although grants were being given to some local authorities by 1912, there was no compulsion to treat the health problems found. 1907 Medical Inspections (continued) • OLD AGE • 1908 Old Age pensions introduced for those over 70. • By 1914, nearly a million people were receiving it. • Amount awarded (5s in 1909) was below Rowntree’s poverty line. • Affected a very small proportion of people and could be withheld in ‘undeserving’ cases.
What did the Liberals do? How effective was this? • WAGE EARNERS • 1911 National Insurance Act • Part I – Sickness and Disability • Workers, employers and the state contributed. • Benefits payable for sickness, disablement and maternity. • Compulsory for all earning under £160 a year. • Did not cover death of the insured worker or hospital treatment. • Workers families not eligible for treatment.
What did the liberals do? How effective was this? • 1911 National Insurance Act • Part II – Unemployment • Workers, employers and state contributed • 7 shillings a week paid to those out of work • Only 2.3 million workers covered. • Only compulsory in cyclical trades e.g. shipbuilding • Benefit limited to 15 weeks out of every year.
What did the Liberals do? How effective was this? • 1909 Labour Exchanges set up • 413 set up by 1913 • 3000 people found work this way every day by 1914 • 1909 Trade Boards Act • Employers in ‘sweated trades’ were prosecuted for paying less than the Boards minimum wage. INDIRECT MEASURES • 1911 Parliament Act • 1909 budget drawn up to tax wealthy Conservative landowners and fund social reforms was carried forward.
What did the Liberals do? How effective was it? • 1911 Parliament Act (continued) • After 1911, The Lords could not interfere with a money bill or bills passed 3 times by the Commons • This left the Liberals capable of pursuing more reforms e.g. National Insurance
Conclusion The liberal reforms were effective in relieving a great deal of poverty and established the cornerstones of the modern welfare state (provision for old age, sickness and unemployment)? OR ….were they limited in scope, failing to deal with key poverty issues such as housing and education and having only a limited effect on poverty in early twentieth century Britain?