The tradition Liberal idea

A welfare state is a public assistance program that provides at least a minimum amount of economic security to people whose incomes are insufficient to maintain an adequate standard of living. These programs generally include such benefits as direct financial aid to individuals, subsidised medical care. It is the concept of government in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well being of its citizens.

It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions for a good life. The general term may cover a variety of forms of economic and social organisation. Where the Liberals lay the foundations for the welfare state between 1905 or was it laid after 1915 by a conservative government after the Great war? Pre-1905 there was an unequal diversion of wealth in Great Britain, 2% of the population owned over 70% of the nations wealth and about 30% lived on or below the poverty line.

The country had serve health problems with 60% of people how volunteered for the Boer War were rejected on health grounds. These problems where caused by high unemployment rate, people employed in lowly paid or irregularly paid jobs and large families. The tradition Liberal idea was that of individualism, liberty and freedom a person should help them selves and so the should be no need for a taxation as money should be earned and not given away.

This was a view held by Liberals such as Gladstone in the 19th century but at the beginning the 20th century this was obviously not going to work, support for this argument are shown by the figures in the first paragraph. There was need for change with the country heading for crisis and this came in the form of New Liberalism and the introduction of a welfare state. New Liberalism was a change from the traditional Liberal view. It believed that the country was in need of more intervention and collectivism.

Due to the number of people living under the poverty line it was time for the state to act by attacking the causes of poverty and injustice in order to improve the living and working condition of England. The Government did this by increasing taxes on workers and the elite and this was justified by claiming that it was giving back to the community what was earned by the community. This was a leftist idea whereas the imperialist Tory party was right wing and so the Liberals hoped this would give them the working class vote.

Social reform was very similar to the ideas of Fabian socialism but the difference was that socialism was based on class conflict and class hatred where as New Liberalism just what to close the gaps between the classes and so keep an elite. The first reforms where put forward by Lloyd George between 1906 and 1908 at the board of trade and Children's reforms during the same time period. In 1906 the main act put forward at board of trade was the Workman's Compensation act.

This act put forward that compensation should be given to people injured during work, accident injury, permanent injury to health and unlike the 1897 act allowed people with dangerous occupations the same right to claim compensation. This act allowed compensation for industrial diseases, for workers earning less than i?? 250m pa; it covered two million workers. Other acts put forward were the 1906 Merchant-shipping act which improved conditions in merchant ship. The 1907 Census of Production, the 1907 Patents act which gave greater protection to British inventors.

The 1907 Port of London Authority that established one large body to run the port, replacing the old private owners and dock companies and finally 1908 mines acts which limited workers to eight-hour days. At the same time the Children's Reform act was passed and consisted of four main acts the first was the 1906 Education act which gave children free school meals which where proved by the local county council. By 1914 150,000 meals had been proved, increasing children's learning as they where on longer under-nourished.

The second act was the 1907 Free medical inspection, concerned about the state of the of children's fitness the government introduced a medical department within the Board of education. The results of this inspection revealed that one third of the children needed medical treatment but medical treatment was not permitted until after 1912. The third part of this act was that at least 25% of secondary school places had to be reserved for elementary schooled children. The fourth part of this act was the 1908 Children's Charter this included the following points.

Separate courts called Juvenile Courts and Borstals where established for children under the age of fourteen, it was made illegal to sell alcohol or tobacco products to children under the age of 18, parents could know be prosecuted for the neglect of children, regulated employment of children outside school hours. Finally made it illegal to use children for begging. As well as acts for workers and Children, in 1908/09 Old Age pensions where introduced for both men and women over the age of 70.

The scheme gave a single person 5 shillings and 7/6d for a couple, this was only for people earning under 12 shillings a week, this pension scheme was more popular than people predicted. Although this pension cost i?? 6m p. a. and was taken up by the figure of 5 million people the original plan to remove people over the age of 70 from the workhouses failed. 90% of pensioners returning to the workhouses, as they could not afford to live off the pensions alone. This was the first use of taxation for redistribution, taking from the rich to give to the poor.

Three other acts: The trade Boards, House and Town planning act and the Labour Exchanges where also passed in 1909. The trade boards act came after astonishing revelations that working class women where working 16 hour days tailoring, lace making and chain making for the uppercases and what made this even worse was that they where only being paid 1d. per hour. Churchill established the trade board to establish proper working conditions and introduce a minimum wage. The second act, House and planning act, gave local authorities more power to demolish slums.

It failed to bring about any real improvement because it was badly administered. It was restarted in 1919 when mass council housing was introduced. The next major welfare reform occurred three years later when the National Insurance act was passed. This scheme was a copy of compulsory health insurance that had been set up set up in Germany by Bismarck. The Insurance was set up into two parts the first part was the National Health Insurance, which dealt with sickness benefits.

Ill workers got 10 Shillings a week if they where male and 7/6d for a women, free treatment from a panel Doctor and approved medicines covered 15million workers. The second half of the National Insurance Act was unemployment insurance. Unemployment benefit for workers in seven industries often affected by seasonal or temporary unemployment such as building, engineering and shipbuilding. This insurance covered 2. 5million men who paid 2 d a week, and received seven shillings a week for the first 15 weeks of unemployment in any 12-month period.

Britain was the first country to have unemployment insurance but once it was introduced even the Tories never abolish it. In conclusion it is obvious that the Liberals did lay the foundations to the welfare state as a lot of there ideas are still in use or have been adapted to the modern way of life. The pension could be an example of a failure of the early welfare state as it was inadequate and distant from the real needs of the people and so eventually failed. Although it was the Liberals who laid the foundation it was the Conservatives who continued to build the Welfare State.


Microsoft Encarta