18/02 CM 04
[18/02 CM 04]
Constitutionnal crisis 1911: expression of a social class conflict. Important to remember both aspect: constitutionnal crisis and origin / causes of that constitutionnal crisis. The social classes were working class, entrepreneurs, and the aristocratic class.
The origin of the Parliament Act 1911:
The refusal by the conservative majority in the House of Lords about the People's Budget (called that way by the Liberals to seem likable). The aristocrates didn't want to be taxed more, the richest of them were going to be taxed more with the Money Bill, so they disagreed. 1910: the House of Lords would still not give in → opposed the passing of the Money Bill. In December 1910 something changed: intervention of the King, who had threaten the Lords, by appointing a certain number of Liberals peers in the H of L. The cons majority in the House of Lords had to accept a new law which reduced the legislative power of the Lords: Parliament Act 1911: actually specified in written that the House of Lords could not delay the passing of a law. In the case of ordinary law, the Lords could delay it for 2 consecutives parliamentory sessions. At the end of the 2nd one, they would have to accept the bill. In the case of Money Bills (finance bill), the Lords could only delay a passing of such law for 1 parliamentory session. → This parliament act was the first step of the reforms in the House of Lords. It was completed later in 1949.
This is the conclusion of the constitutionnal and institutionnal conflict within the UK Government institutions. The Liberals at the center of the power wanted to be seen doing something for the poor, by taxing the richest ones.
Measures adopted in the beginning of the 20e century
The liberals adopted a number of measures in 1906-1908, and more after that. The Liberals did that not because they were a benevolant party but because they were representing this powerful class of entrepreneurs, employers. So the Liberals, under the influence of the New Liberals (Churchill, Lloyd George), had to accept that they had to do something. In the 19e century, it was a government of non-intervention: “laissez-faire”, in favour of the aristocracy. That's why in the beginning of the 20e century, with the capitalism starting to grow, they started to stop non-interventionism and do something in favour of the capitalists.
Only the poorest section of the working class would receive help (otherwise they would not be able to work → less workers is bad for capitalism). One profession in particular, miners, was a matter of concern. The Coal Mines (Eight Hours) Act 1908 reduced the number of work's hours. But this did not include the time to go to the mine, only the working hours. The government did that because they were afraid of miners: in a lot of contries, they have been a threat, when they decide to revolt (they are strong, numerous, with tools that could be potential weapons). In 1912 the miners proposed a national strike for all industrial workers, which represented a serious threat if workers can mobalize to a point that they would stop the economics. The Government decided to do something at the base of the problem: the miners. So they proposed The Coal Mine (Minimum Wages) Act 1912. Very typical government flexible approach: a neutral committee would represent the miners workers and establish a level of minimum wage, different from a district to another. If workers were not really motivated, when Government would maintain the minimum wage to a minimum. If the miners were ready to revolt, the minimum wage were a little bit higher. It wasn't a national miners minimum wages: it was a local one, based on local negocations.
Other professions that receive a lot of attention under the Liberals because they were very difficult professions, and most of the time they did activities that anyone was able to do. The sweated industry was over-exploited. There was public knowledge that certain industries was over-exploited: very long hours, low pays, etc. It has been a regular concern in the second half of the 19e century. The sweated work took place in small work shop, several people (dozen people), not very big factories. Nothing very much happens until the Liberals did something about it: in 1906 a daily newspaper talked about an Anti-Sweating Exhibition. But it was only in 1909 that the Liberal Government proposed the Trade Boards Act, under the influence of Churchill. They wanted to target the most serious problem areas: only those industries which were susceptibles of rebellion. So this act was only for 4 professions. For each of these industries a Board was established, and these Boards were supposed to be representatives of workers, employers, and Parliament. And these Boards was giving the responsibility of establishing a minimum wage. This measure again targeted the most difficult conditions only. In 1913, 6 more trades (professions) were added to this Trade Board Act, and included a few more workers. Need to remember: it concerned a very limited number of workers. If you look at the history of different measures adopted over the 19e century, there is sometime a vision of progress: it's only a vision. The Liberals' intention was to limit the systemic risk of rebellion by specific working class category (industry in particular): it would help secure the system, and would perhaps discourage workers of voting for Labour. If they wanted to represent the interest of everyone, they would for examples giving a minimum wage to everyone. But they just adopted a certain number of measures for the security of the system.
Another difficult profession they were targeted were shop assistance: typically there were long days, with very short breaks or not it all, 7 days a week, and very low pays. This was the beginning of the chain store system. In 1911, the Government proposed and adopted the Shops Act, which stating the following: shop assistance should have one half day a week of rest; and they should have regular meal time. The Liberals had intended to reduce the number of hours, but lack of time pushed them to abandon this idea (geeeeeeeeenre): but the fact was that shop keepers owners did not want it.
National Insurance Act 1911
Before it there was the Workmen's Compensation Act 1906, to compensate the lost of income from the workers who could not afford an insurance for themselves.
National Insurance Act 1911: first time that a national state finance program for compensating the lost of income due to unemployment and, mostly, health. Only concerned the poorest of the poor workers, and the second part of that act about unemployement concerned only certain categories.
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