To What Extent Did The Labour Government Of 1945 1951 Improve The Lives Of The British People?

2508 words - 11 pages

To what extent did the Labour government of 1945 -1951 improve the lives of the British people?

Winston Churchill, the leader of the Conservative Party, was in power when the Second World War ended and Nazi Germany was defeated. He was hailed a hero in the eyes of the euphoric nation. Confident in his popularity the Government called an election. Clement Attlee, the leader of the Labour party, came to power in a landslide victory, having used the slogan “No return to the 1930s” – a time of unemployment and recession. Britain had used up all its financial resources to survive the last years of the war. The voters though, wanted an end to this austerity and did not want to return to ...view middle of the document...

The Labour Government introduced the National Insurance Act of 1946 and the National Assistance Act of 1948. The National Insurance Act was one of Labour’s attacks on ‘Want’. The Act was passed to allow people, who became unemployed or too sick to work, to get money to allow them to maintain basic subsistence. However, many historians discredited it for not being as comprehensive as it was made out to be. The sickness benefit for example could only be claimed after 156 contributions had been made which was three years’ worth of contributions in full employment. This meant that many people would not be eligible to apply for the benefit and would have to wait to be helped. That time could mean all the difference between life and death. The benefits received were at a flat rate of 42 shillings which would allow the family to live at the most basic level of subsistence. However, Labour did not take into account inflation which raised the cost of living. Even when the Act was introduced, the flat rate was already behind the cost of living and that continued to fall. The National Insurance Act was on the whole, a well thought out act that was effective to an extent, but still did not reach the standards expected. The Industrial Injuries act was there to help those who couldn’t work for a period of time due to an injury received while in a workplace. All workers and employees would have to contribute payments towards the benefit. In return, the state would provide insurance against industrial injury. These benefits were set at a higher rate than normal sickness benefits. The National Assistance Act helped those not in work or those unable to maintain a basic subsistence level. It was means tested but like the National Insurance Act the benefits were set too low. The aim of the scheme was to make sure nobody fell into poverty. However, this was flawed due to there being a “stigma” attached to means tested benefits so many people avoided it.
The introduction of the National Health Service in 1948 was arguably the biggest single factor that had an impact on people’s lives. Dealing with the Nations medical problems was not an easy task for the Labour government. Medical provision pre-war was primitive and biased to more upper class families who could afford to pay for medical attention. Free hospitalisation for lower and middle class were at the mercy of egotistical medical staff. The outlined proposals for the NHS were monumental in that it provided universal care, treatment did not depend upon National Insurance contributions, was open to everyone regardless of class and entirely free. That was what was advertised anyway. For the financially unstable Britain the rate at which supplies were being used up was a serious issue that Labour had not anticipated. Optical care by the NHS was given supplies that were expected to last them a year but with a massive influx of people wanting eye care it ran out within 6 weeks. This demand was also...

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