Overblog Suivre ce blog
Editer l'article Administration Créer mon blog
16 octobre 2011 7 16 /10 /octobre /2011 11:32

James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, KG, OBE, FRS, FSS, PC (11 March 1916 – 24 May 1995) was a British Labour Member of Parliament, Leader of the Labour Party. He was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s,Sony VAIO VGN-SR190NGB Battery

winning four general elections, including a minority government after the February 1974 General Election resulted in a hung parliament. He is the most recent British Prime Minister to have served non-consecutive terms.

Harold Wilson first served as Prime Minister in the 1960s, during a period of low unemployment and relative economic prosperity (though also of significant problems with the UK's external balance of payments).Sony VAIO VGN-SR190PAB Battery

His second term in office began in 1974, when a period of economic crisis was beginning to hit most Western countries. On both occasions, economic concerns were to prove a significant constraint on his governments' ambitions. Sony VAIO VGN-SR190PCB Battery

Wilson's own approach to socialism placed emphasis on efforts to increase opportunity within society, for example through change and expansion within the education system, allied to the technocratic aim of taking better advantage of rapid scientific progress, rather than on the left's traditional goal of promoting wider public ownership of industry. Sony VAIO VGN-SR190PFB Battery

While he did not challenge the Party constitution's stated dedication to nationalisation head-on, he took little action to pursue it. A member of the Labour Party's "soft left," Wilson joked about leading a cabinet that was made up mostly of social democrats, comparing himself to a Bolshevik revolutionary presiding over a Tsarist cabinet, but there was arguably little to divide him ideologically from the cabinet majority.Sony VAIO VGN-SR19VN Battery

Though generally not at the top of Wilson's personal areas of priority, his first period in office was notable for substantial legal changes in a number of social areas, including the liberalisation of censorship, divorce, homosexuality, immigration and abortion (see Social issues, below), Sony VAIO VGN-SR19VN Battery

as well as the abolition of capital punishment, due in part to the initiatives of backbench MPs who had the support of Roy Jenkins during his time as Home Secretary.

Overall, Wilson is seen to have managed a number of difficult political issues with considerable tactical skill, including such potentially divisive issues for his party as the role of public ownership,Sony VAIO VGN-SR19VRN Battery

British membership of the European Community, and the Vietnam War, in which he resisted US pressure to involve Britain and send British troops. Nonetheless, his stated ambition of substantially improving Britain's long-term economic performance remained largely unfulfilled.Sony VAIO VGN-SR19XN Battery

Early life

Wilson was born in Huddersfield, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England on 11 March 1916, an almost exact contemporary of his rival, Edward Heath (9 July 1916 – 17 July 2005). He came from a political family: his father James Herbert Wilson (December 1882–1971) was a works chemist who had been active in the Liberal Party and then joined the Labour Party.Sony VAIO VGN-SR19XN Battery

His mother Ethel (née Seddon; 1882–1957) was a schoolteacher prior to her marriage. When Wilson was eight, he visited London and a later-to-be-famous photograph was taken of him standing on the doorstep of 10 Downing Street.

He was a supporter of his hometown football club, Huddersfield Town.Sony VAIO VGN-SR210J/S Battery


Wilson won a scholarship to attend the local grammar school, Royds Hall Grammar School, Huddersfield. His education was disrupted in October 1930 when he contracted typhoid fever after drinking contaminated milk on a Scouts' outing. It took him three months to recover.Sony VAIO VGN-SR21M/S Battery

In December 1930, his father, working as an industrial chemist, was made redundant and it took him nearly two years to find work. He moved to Spital on the Wirral, Cheshire in order to do so. Wilson attended the sixth form at the Wirral Grammar School for Boys, where he became Head Boy.Sony VAIO VGN-SR21RM/H Battery

Wilson did well at school and, although he missed getting a scholarship, he obtained an exhibition; which, when topped up by a county grant, enabled him to study Modern History at Jesus College, Oxford, from 1934. At Oxford, Wilson was moderately active in politics as a member of the Liberal Party but was later influenced by G. D. H. Cole to join the Labour Party. Sony VAIO VGN-SR21RM/S Battery

After his first year, he changed his field of study to Philosophy, Politics and Economics. He graduated with "an outstanding first class Bachelor of Arts degree, with alphas on every paper" in the final examinations. A popular urban myth at Oxford University states that Wilson's grade in his final examination was the highest ever recorded up to that date. Sony VAIO VGN-SR220J/B Battery

He also received exceptional testimonials from his tutors, including a comment from one that "he is, far and away, the ablest man I have taught so far".

Although Wilson had two abortive attempts at an All Souls Fellowship, he continued in academia, becoming one of the youngest Oxford University dons of the century at the age of 21. Sony VAIO VGN-SR220J/H Battery

He was a lecturer in Economic History at New College from 1937, and a Research Fellow at University College.


On New Year's Day 1940, in the chapel of Mansfield College, Oxford, he married Mary Baldwin who remained his wife until his death. Mary Wilson became a published poet. Sony VAIO VGN-SR240J/B Battery

They had two sons, Robin and Giles (named after Giles Alington); Robin became a Professor of Mathematics, and Giles became a teacher. Both his sons went to the same independent school, University College School, in Hampstead. In their twenties, his sons were under a kidnap threat from the IRA.Sony VAIO VGN-SR240N/B Battery

After becoming a teacher at a comprehensive school for two years, Giles later returned to teaching, becoming a Maths master at Salisbury Cathedral School, and later, Northcliffe Preparatory School, Nursling, Southampton. In November 2006 it was reported that Giles had given up his teaching job and become a train driver for South West Trains.Sony VAIO VGN-SR290JTH Battery

Wartime service

On the outbreak of the Second World War, Wilson volunteered for service but was classed as a specialist and moved into the civil service instead. For much of this time, he was a research assistant to William Beveridge, the Master of the College, working on the issues of unemployment and the trade cycle. Sony VAIO VGN-SR290JTJ Battery

He later became a statistician and economist for the coal industry. He was Director of Economics and Statistics at the Ministry of Fuel and Power1943–44, and received an OBE for his services.

He was to remain passionately interested in statistics. As President of the Board of Trade, he was the driving force behind the Statistics of Trade Act 1947, which is still the authority governing most economic statistics in Great Britain.Sony VAIO VGN-SR290JTQ Battery

He was instrumental as Prime Minister in appointing Claus Moser as head of the Central Statistical Office, and was president of the Royal Statistical Society in 1972–73.

Member of Parliament

As the war drew to an end, he searched for a seat to fight at the impending general election. Sony VAIO VGN-SR290JVB/C Battery

He was selected for Ormskirk, then held by Stephen King-Hall. Wilson accidentally agreed to be adopted as the candidate immediately rather than delay until the election was called, and was therefore compelled to resign from the Civil Service. He served as Praelector in Economics at University College between his resignation and his election to the House of Commons. Sony VAIO VGN-SR290JVH/C Battery

He also used this time to write A New Deal for Coal which used his wartime experience to argue for nationalisation of the coal mines on the grounds of the improved efficiency he predicted would ensue.

In the 1945 general election, Wilson won his seat in the Labour landslide. To his surprise, he was immediately appointed to the government asParliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works. Sony VAIO VGN-SR290NTB Battery

Two years later, he became Secretary for Overseas Trade, in which capacity he made several official trips to the Soviet Union to negotiate supply contracts. Conspiracy-minded commentators would later seek to raise suspicions about these trips.

In government

On 29 September 1947, Wilson was appointed President of the Board of Trade and, at 31, became the youngest member of the Cabinet in the 20th century. Sony VAIO VGN-SR29VN/S Battery

He took a lead in abolishing some of the wartime rationing, which he referred to as a "bonfire of controls". His role in internal debates during the summer of 1949 over whether or not to devalue sterling, in which he was perceived to have played both sides of the issue, tarnished his reputation in both political and official circles.Sony VAIO VGN-SR29XN/S Battery

In the general election of 1950, his constituency was altered and he was narrowly elected for the new seat of Huyton near Liverpool.

Wilson was becoming known as a left-winger and joined Aneurin Bevan and John Freeman in resigning from the government in April 1951 in protest at the introduction of National Health Service (NHS) medical charges to meet the financial demands imposed by the Korean War. Sony VAIO VGN-SR2RVN/S Battery

After the Labour Party lost the general election later that year, he was made chairman of Bevan's 'Keep Left' group, but shortly thereafter he distanced himself from Bevan. By coincidence, it was Bevan's further resignation from the Shadow Cabinet in 1954 that put Wilson back on the front bench (as a spokesman, initially, on finance).Sony VAIO VGN-SR390NAB Battery


Wilson soon proved to be a very effective Shadow Minister. One of his procedural moves caused a delay to the progress of the Government's Finance Bill in 1955, and his speeches as Shadow Chancellor from 1956 were widely praised for their clarity and wit.Sony VAIO VGN-SR390NAH Battery

He coined the term "gnomes of Zurich" to describe Swiss bankers whom he accused of pushing the pound down by speculation. In the meantime, he conducted an inquiry into the Labour Party's organisation following its defeat in the 1955 general election, which compared the Party organisation to an antiquated "penny farthing" bicycle, and made various recommendations for improvements.Sony VAIO VGN-SR41M/P Battery

Unusually, Wilson combined the job of Chairman of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee with that of Shadow Chancellor from 1959, holding the chairmanship of the PAC from 1959 to 1963.

Wilson steered a course in intra-party matters in the 1950s and early 1960s which left him neither fully accepted and trusted by either the left or the right within the Labour Party. Sony VAIO VGN-SR41M/S Battery

Despite his earlier association with the left-wing Aneurin Bevan, in 1955 he backed Hugh Gaitskell, who was considered the right-of-centre candidate in internal Labour Party terms, against Bevan for the party leadership He then launched an opportunistic but unsuccessful challenge to Gaitskell in November 1960, in the wake of the Labour Party's 1959 defeat,Sony VAIO VGN-SR49VN/H Battery

Gaitskell's controversial attempt to ditch Labour's commitment to nationalisation in the shape of the Party's Clause Four, and Gaitskell's defeat at the 1960 Party Conference over a motion supporting Britain's unilateral nuclear disarmament. Wilson also challenged for the deputy leadership in 1962 but was defeated by George Brown. Sony VAIO VGN-SR51B/P Battery

Following these challenges, he was moved to the position of Shadow Foreign Secretary.

Hugh Gaitskell died in January 1963, aged 56, after a sudden flare of Lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disease, just as the Labour Party had begun to unite and appeared to have a good chance of being elected to government, with the Macmillan government running into trouble.Sony VAIO VGN-SR51B/S Battery

Wilson became the left candidate for the leadership. He defeated George Brown, who was hampered by a reputation as an erratic figure and who was mistrusted by the likes of Denis Healey (Wilson's predecessor as shadow foreign secretary) and Anthony Crosland, in a straight contest in the second round of balloting, after James Callaghan,Sony VAIO VGN-SR51MF Battery

who had entered the race as an alternative to Brown, had been eliminated in the first round.

Wilson's 1964 election campaign was aided by the Profumo Affair, a 1963 ministerial sex scandal that had mortally wounded the Conservative government of Harold Macmillan and was to taint his successor Sir Alec Douglas-Home, even though Home had not been involved in the scandal. Sony VAIO VGN-SR51MF/P Battery

Wilson made capital without getting involved in the less salubrious aspects. (Asked for a statement on the scandal, he reportedly said "No comment... in glorious Technicolor!"). Home was an aristocrat who had given up his title as Lord Home to sit in the House of Commons. Sony VAIO VGN-SR51MF/S Battery

To Wilson's comment that he was the 14th Earl of Home, Home retorted, "I suppose Mr. Wilson is the fourteenth Mr. Wilson".

At the Labour Party's 1963 annual conference, Wilson made possibly his best-remembered speech, on the implications of scientific and technological change, Sony VAIO VGN-SR51MF/W Battery

in which he argued that "the Britain that is going to be forged in the white heat of this revolution will be no place for restrictive practices or for outdated measures on either side of industry". This speech did much to set Wilson's reputation as a technocrat not tied to the prevailing class system.Sony VAIO VGN-SR51MR Battery

First term as Prime Minister (1964–70)

Labour won the 1964 general election with a narrow majority of four seats, and Wilson became Prime Minister. This was an insufficient parliamentary majority to last for a full term, and after 18 months, a second election in March 1966 returned Wilson with the much larger majority of 96.Sony VAIO VGN-SR59VG Battery

Economic policies

In economic terms, Wilson's first three years in office were dominated by an ultimately doomed effort to stave off the devaluation of the pound. He inherited an unusually large external deficit on thebalance of trade. Sony VAIO VGN-SR59VG/H Battery

This partly reflected the preceding government's expansive fiscal policy in the run-up to the 1964 election, and the incoming Wilson team tightened the fiscal stance in response. Many British economists advocated devaluation, but Wilson resisted, reportedly in part out of concern that Labour, which had previously devalued sterling in 1949, would become tagged as "the party of devaluation".Sony VAIO VGN-SR70B/S Battery

After a costly battle, market pressures forced the government into devaluation in 1967. Wilson was much criticised for a broadcast in which he assured listeners that the "pound in your pocket" had not lost its value. It was widely forgotten that his next sentence had been "prices will rise". Sony VAIO VGN-SR72B/P Battery

Economic performance did show some improvement after the devaluation, as economists had predicted. The devaluation, with accompanying austerity measures, successfully restored the balance of payments to surplus by 1969. This unexpectedly turned into a small deficit again in 1970. Sony VAIO VGN-SR72B/S Battery

The bad figures were announced just before polling in the 1970 general election, and are often cited as one of the reasons for Labour's defeat.

A main theme of Wilson's economic approach was to place enhanced emphasis on "indicative economic planning". Sony VAIO VGN-SR73JB/S Battery

He created a new Department of Economic Affairs to generate ambitious targets that were in themselves supposed to help stimulate investment and growth (the government also created a Ministry of Technology (shortened to Mintech) to support the modernisation of industry). Sony VAIO VGN-SR74FB/S Battery

The DEA itself was in part intended to serve as an expansionary counter-weight to what Labour saw as the conservative influence of the Treasury, though the appointment of Wilson's deputy, George Brown, as the Minister in charge of the DEA was something of a two-edged sword, in view of Brown's reputation for erratic conduct;Sony VAIO VGN-SR90FS Battery

in any case the government's decision over its first three years to defend sterling's parity with traditional deflationary measures ran counter to hopes for an expansionist push for growth. Though now out of fashion, the faith in indicative planning as a pathway to growth,embodied in the DEA and Mintech, Sony VAIO VGN-SR90NS Battery

was at the time by no means confined to the Labour Party – Wilson built on foundations that had been laid by his Conservative predecessors, in the shape, for example, of the National Economic Development Council (known as "Neddy") and its regional counterparts (the "little Neddies").Sony VAIO VGN-SR90S Battery

The continued relevance of industrial nationalisation (a centerpiece of the post-War Labour government's programme) had been a key point of contention in Labour's internal struggles of the 1950s and early 1960s. Wilson's predecessor as leader, Hugh Gaitskell, had tried in 1960 to tackle the controversy head-on, Sony VAIO VGN-SR90US Battery

with a proposal to expunge Clause Four (the public ownership clause) from the party's constitution, but had been forced to climb down. Wilson took a characteristically more subtle approach. He threw the party's left wing a symbolic bone with the renationalisation of the steel industry, but otherwise left Clause Four formally in the constitution but in practice on the shelf.Sony VAIO VGN-SR91NS Battery

Wilson made periodic attempts to mitigate inflation through wage-price controls, better known in the UK as "prices and incomes policy" (as with indicative planning, such controls—though now generally out of favour – were widely adopted at that time by governments of different ideological complexions, including the Nixon administration in the United States). Sony VAIO VGN-SR91PS Battery

Partly as a result of this reliance, the government tended to find itself repeatedly injected into major industrial disputes, with late-night "beer and sandwiches at Number Ten" an almost routine culmination to such episodes. Among the most damaging of the numerous strikes during Wilson's periods in office was a six-week stoppage by the National Union of Seamen, Sony VAIO VGN-SR91S Battery

beginning shortly after Wilson's re-election in 1966, and conducted, he claimed, by "politically motivated men".

With public frustration over strikes mounting, Wilson's government in 1969 proposed a series of changes to the legal basis for industrial relations (labour law) in the UK, which were outlined in a White Paper "In Place of Strife" put forward by the Employment Secretary Barbara Castle.Sony VAIO VGN-SR91US Battery

Following a confrontation with the Trades Union Congress, which strongly opposed the proposals, and internal dissent from Home Secretary James Callaghan, the government substantially backed-down from its intentions. Some elements of these changes were subsequently to be revived (in modified form) during the premiership of Margaret Thatcher.Sony VAIO VGN-SR92NS Battery

Wilson's administration made a variety of changes to the tax system. Largely under the influence of the Hungarian-born economists Nicholas Kaldor and Thomas Balogh, an idiosyncratic "Selective Employment Tax" (SET) was introduced that was designed to tax employment in the service sectors while subsidising employment in manufacturing  Sony VAIO VGN-SR92PS Battery

(the rationale proposed by its economist authors derived largely from claims about potential economies of scale and technological progress, but Wilson in his memoirs stressed the tax's revenue-raising potential). The SET did not long survive the return of a Conservative government.Sony VAIO VGN-SR92S Battery

Of longer term significance, Capital Gains Tax (CGT) was introduced for the first time in the UK on 6 April 1965. Across his two periods in office, Wilson presided over significant increases in the overall tax burden in the UK. By 1974, the top-rate of income tax reached its highest rate since the war, 83%. This applied to incomes over £20,000 (£155,247 as of 2011),Sony VAIO VGN-SR92US Battery

and combined with a 15% surcharge on 'un-earned' income (investments and dividends) could add to a 98% marginal rate of personal income tax. In 1974, as many as 750,000 people were liable to pay the top-rate of income tax. Labour's identification with high tax rates was to prove one of the issues that helped the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher and John Major dominate British politics during the 1980s and early-to-mid-1990s.Sony VAIO VGN-SR93DS Battery

Wilson had entered power at a time when unemployment stood at around 400,000. It still stood 371,000 by early 1966 after a steady fall during 1965, but by March 1967 it stood at 631,000. It fell again towards the end of the decade, standing at 582,000 by the time of the general election in June 1970.Sony VAIO VGN-SR93JS Battery

Social issues

A number of liberalising social reforms were passed through parliament during Wilson's first period in government. These included the abolition of capital punishment, decriminalisation of sex between men in private, liberalisation of abortion law and the abolition of theatre censorship. Sony VAIO VGN-SR93PS Battery

The Divorce Reform Act was passed by parliament in 1969 (and came into effect in 1971). Such reforms were mostly via private member's bills on 'free votes' in line with established convention, but the large Labour majority after 1966 was undoubtedly more open to such changes than previous parliaments had been.Sony VAIO VGN-SR93YS Battery

Wilson personally, coming culturally from a provincial non-conformist background, showed no particular enthusiasm for much of this agenda (which some linked to the "permissive society"), but the reforming climate was especially encouraged by Roy Jenkins during his period at the Home Office. Sony VAIO VGN-SR94FS Battery

The franchise was also extended with the reduction of the voting age from twenty-one to eighteen in 1969.

Wilson's 1966–70 term witnessed growing public concern over the level of immigration to the United Kingdom. The issue was dramatised at the political level by the famous "Rivers of Blood speech" by the Conservative politician Enoch Powell, warning against the dangers of immigration, which led to Powell's dismissal from the Shadow Cabinet.Sony VAIO VGN-SR94GS Battery

Wilson's government adopted a two-track approach. While condemning racial discrimination (and adopting legislation to make it a legal offence), Wilson's Home Secretary James Callaghan introduced significant new restrictions on the right of immigration to the United Kingdom.Sony VAIO VGN-SR94HS Battery


Education held special significance for a socialist of Wilson's generation, in view of its role in both opening up opportunities for children from working class backgrounds and enabling the UK to seize the potential benefits of scientific advances. Sony VAIO VGN-SR94VS Battery

Under the first Wilson Government, for the first time in British history, more money was allocated to education than to defence.[20]Wilson continued the rapid creation of new universities, in line with the recommendations of the Robbins Report, a bipartisan policy already in train when Labour took power. Sony VAIO VGN-SZ35B/B Battery

The economic difficulties of the period deprived the tertiary system of the resources it needed. Nevertheless, university expansion remained a core policy. One notable effect was the first entry of women into university education in significant numbers. More broadly, higher education overall was significantly expanded, with a distinct bias towards the non-university sector.Sony VAIO VGN-SZ54B/B Battery

Some 29 polytechnics were established, whilst student participation rates were increased from 5% to 10.%.

Wilson also deserves credit for grasping the concept of an Open University, to give adults who had missed out on tertiary education a second chance through part-time study and distance learning. Sony VAIO VGN-SZ55B/B Battery

His political commitment included assigning implementation responsibility to Baroness Lee, the widow of Aneurin Bevan, the charismatic leader of Labour's Left wing whom Wilson had joined in resigning from the Attlee cabinet. The Open University worked through summer schools, postal tuition and television programmes.Sony VAIO VGN-SZ55GN/B Battery

By 1981, 45,000 students had received degrees through the Open University.

Wilson's record on secondary education is, by contrast, highly controversial. A fuller description is in the article Education in England. Two factors played a role. Following the Education Act 1944 there was disaffection with the tripartite system of academically-oriented Grammar schools for a small proportion of "gifted" children,Sony VAIO VGN-SZ56 Battery

and Technical and Secondary Modern schools for the majority of children. Pressure grew for the abolition of the selective principle underlying the "eleven plus", and replacement with Comprehensive schools which would serve the full range of children (see the article Debates on the grammar school). Sony VAIO VGN-SZ561N Battery

Comprehensive education became Labour Party policy. From 1966 to 1970, the proportion of children in comprehensive schools increased from about 10% to over 30%. There was also a move in primary schools towards “child-centred” or individual learning, in keeping with the recommendations of the 1967 Plowden Report on improving the education system.Sony VAIO VGN-SZ562N Battery

Polytechnics were established in 1965 through the amalgamation of existing institutions such as colleges of technology, art, and commerce. A new external examination, designed for children of middling intellectual ability and leading to a Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE), was also introduced that same year.Sony VAIO VGN-SZ57N Battery

Labour pressed local authorities to convert grammar schools, many of them cherished local institutions, into comprehensives. Conversion continued on a large scale during the subsequent ConservativeHeath administration, although the Secretary of State, Margaret Thatcher, ended the compulsion of local governments to convert.Sony VAIO VGN-SZ58GN Battery

While the proclaimed goal was to level school quality up, the converse claim was made that the grammar schools' excellence was being sacrificed with little to show in the way of improvement of other schools (for details and sources on this and related arguments, see article on Debates on the grammar school). Sony VAIO VGN-SZ58GN/C Battery

Critically handicapping implementation, economic austerity meant that schools never received sufficient funding.

A second factor affecting education was change in teacher training, including introduction of "progressive" child-centred methods, abhorred by many established teachers.Sony VAIO VGN-SZ58N Battery

In parallel, the profession became increasingly politicised. The status of teaching suffered and is still recovering.

Another major controversy of the first Wilson term was the decision that the government could not fulfil its long-held promise to raise the school leaving age to 16, because of the investment required in infrastructure, such as extra classrooms and teachers.Sony VAIO VGN-SZ61MN/B Battery

Baroness Lee considered resigning in protest, but narrowly decided against this in the interests of party unity. It was left to Thatcher to carry out the change, during the Heath government.

Overal, public expenditure on education rose as a proportion of GNP from 4.8% in 1964 to 5.9% in 1968, and the number of teachers in training increased by more than a third between 1964 and 1967. Sony VAIO VGN-SZ61VN/X Battery

The percentage of students staying on at school after the age of sixteen increased similarly, and the student population increased by over 10% each year. Pupil-teacher ratios were also steadily reduced. As a result of the First Wilson government’s educational policies, Sony VAIO VGN-SZ61WN/C Battery

opportunities for working-class children were improved, while overall access to education in 1970 was broader than in 1964.

In 1966, Wilson was created the first Chancellor of the newly created University of Bradford, a position he held until 1985.Sony VAIO VGN-SZ640N/B Battery


Housing was an issue the Conservatives were widely recognized to have made their own, after the Churchill government of the early 1950s, with Harold Macmillan as Minister for Housing, gave housing construction far higher political priority than it had received under the Attlee administration Sony VAIO VGN-SZ645P3 Battery

(where housing had been attached to the portfolio of Health Minister Aneurin Bevan, whose attention was concentrated on his responsibilities for the National Health Service). Macmillan had accepted Winston Churchill's challenge to meet the latter's ambitious public commitment to build 300,000 new homes a year, and achieved the target a year ahead schedule. Sony VAIO VGN-SZ650N/C Battery

The First Wilson Government devoted significant attention to efforts at beating the Tories at their own game. Housing construction was markedly increased, though Labour's own specific manifesto commitment to raise construction to a new high of 500,000 new homes a year proved, unlike Churchill's, embarrassingly elusive. Sony VAIO VGN-SZ660N/C Battery

Nonetheless, more new houses were built between 1964 and 1970 than in the last six years of the previous Conservative government.

In parallel, the proportion of council housing rose from 42% to 50% of the total.Sony VAIO VGN-SZ670N/C Battery

The number of council homes built increased steadily under the First Wilson Government, from 119,000 in 1964 to 133,000 in 1965 and to 142,000 in 1966. Allowing for demolitions, 1.3 million new homes were built between 1965 and 1970. To encourage home ownership, the government introduced the Option Mortgage Scheme (1968), Sony VAIO VGN-SZ680ND Battery

which made low-income housebuyers eligible for subsidies (equivalent to tax relief on mortgage interest payments).

Significant emphasis was also placed on town planning, with new conservation areas introduced and a new generation of new towns built, notably Milton Keynes -- this trend itself a continuation of efforts initiated in the latter years of the preceding Conservative administration. Sony VAIO VGN-SZ691N/X Battery

The New Towns Acts of 1965 and 1968 together gave the government the authority (through its ministries) to designate any area of land as a site for a New Town. The government also combined its push for the construction of more new housing with encouragement and subsidisation of the renovation of old houses (as an alternative to their destruction and replacement).Sony VAIO VGN-SZ71E/B Battery

The Housing Improvement Act of 1969, for example, made it easier to turn old houses into new homes by encouraging rehabilitation and modernisation through increased grants to property owners. The legislation also introduced special grants for installing amenities in houses in multi-occupation and government grants towards environmental improvement up to an expenditure of £100 per dwelling, while approved works of repair and replacement became eligible for grant aid for the first time ever.Sony VAIO VGN-SZ71VN/X Battery

Altogether, between 1965 and 1970, over 2 million homes had been constructed (almost half of which were council properties), more than in any other five-year period since 1918.

The Protection from Eviction Act (1964) outlawed the eviction of tenants without a court order, while the Rent Act (1965) extended security of tenure, introduced registration of rents, and protection from eviction for private tenants.Sony VAIO VGN-SZ71WN/C Battery

The Leasehold Reform Act (1967) was passed in order to enable holders of long leases to purchase the freehold of their homes. This legislation provided about one million leaseholders with the right to purchase the freehold of their homes. Controls were introduced over increases in the rents of council accommodation, Sony VAIO VGN-SZ74B/B Battery

a new Rent Act (introduced in 1965) froze the rent for most unfurnished accommodation in the private sector while providing tenants with greater security of tenure and protection against harassment, and a system was introduced whereby independent arbitrators had the power to fix fair rents.Sony VAIO VGN-SZ750N/C Battery

Legislation introduced regulated tenancies for properties with a rateable value of up to £200 per year (£400 in London), which meant that tenants were not only to be protected from intimidation, but that evictions would now require court orders. Sony VAIO VGN-SZ75B/B Battery

It also restructured the housing subsidy system such that the borrowing charges of local authorities of individual local authorities would be pegged to 4% interest.  The 1966 Rating Act introduced the rating of empty properties and provided for the payment of rates in instalments. Sony VAIO VGN-SZ76 Battery

The Local Government Act introduced that same year introduced a “domestic” element in the new Rate Support Grant, by providing relief to domestic ratepayers on a rising scale, so that as local expenditure rose, government grant was geared to outpace it. As noted by one historian,Sony VAIO VGN-SZ770N/C Battery

“The amount of grant in the domestic element would be calculated as sufficient to subsidize domestic ratepayers to the extent of a fivepenny rate in the first year, tenpence in the second, and so on."

The 1965 Housing (Slum Clearance Compensation) Act continued a provision for home owners of unfit dwellings purchased between 1939 and 1955 to be compensated at market values. Sony VAIO VGN-SZ77N Battery

The Building Control Act of 1966 introduced building licensing to give priority to housing construction. Under the Supplementary Benefit Act of 1966, an owner occupier on benefits was entitled to an allowance for repairs, insurance, rates, and “reasonable” interest cha

rges on a mortgage.Sony VAIO VGN-SZ780 Battery

A Land Commission was also established to purchase land for building and therefore prevent profiteering in land values, although it only had limited success. The Housing Susbsidies Act (1967) provided financial assistance to local authorities for conversions and improvements, while also reforming the standard of fitness for human habitation.Sony VAIO VGN-SZ78N Battery

Social Services and Welfare

Following its victory in the 1964 general election, Wilson's government began to increase social benefits. Prescription charges for medicines were abolished immediately, while pensions were raised to a record 21% of average male industrial wages.Sony VAIO VGN-SZ791N/X Battery

In 1966, the system of national assistance (a social assistance scheme for the poor) was overhauled and renamed Supplementary Benefit. The means test was replaced with a statement of income, and benefit rates for pensioners (the great majority of claimants) were increased, granting them a real gain in income. Sony VAIO VGN-SZ84NS Battery

Before the 1966 election, the widow’s pension was tripled and redundancy payments for laid-off workers were introduced. Due to austerity measures following an economic crisis, prescription charges were re-introduced in 1968 as an alternative to cutting the hospital building programme,Sony VAIO VGN-SZ84PS Battery

although those sections of the population who were most in need (including supplementary benefit claimants, the long-term sick, children, and pensioners) were exempted from charges. The widow’s earning rule was abolished.Social security benefits were markedly increased during Wilson's first two years in office, as characterised by a budget passed in the final quarter of 1964 which raised the standard benefit rates for old age, sickness and invalidity by 18.5%.Sony VAIO VGN-SZ84S Battery

Increased funds were allocated to social services during the First Wilson Government's time in office. Between 1963 and 1968, spending on housing increased by 9.6%, social security by 6.6%, health by 6%, and education by 6.9%,[25] while from 1964 to 1967 social spending increased by 45%.Sony VAIO VGN-SZ84US Battery

Altogether, from 1964 to 1970, spending on the social services rose from 16% to 23% of national wealth between 1964 and 1970. As noted by the historian Richard Whiting, spending on social services under Wilson rose faster than the growth in GNP, by 65% (excluding housing) as against 37% for GNP, "a substantially better record than that achieved by the preceding Conservative governments.”Sony VAIO VGN-SZ85NS Battery

In terms of social security, the welfare state was significantly expanded through substantial increases in national insurance benefits (which rose in real terms by 20% from 1964 to 1970) and the creation of new social welfare benefits. The National Assistance Board was merged with the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance to become the new Ministry of Social Security,Sony VAIO VGN-SZ85S Battery

which replaced national assistance with supplementary benefit, improved benefit scale rates, and provided a statutory right to benefit for the out-of-work needy. The government also succeeded in persuading people to draw assistance to which they were entitled to but hadn’t claimed before.Sony VAIO VGN-SZ85US Battery

The number of elderly Britons receiving home helps rose by over 15% from 1964 to 1969, while nearly three times as many meals on wheels were served in 1968 as in 1964. In 1968, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Security were amalgamated into the Department of Health and Social Security, Sony VAIO VGN-SZ94NS Battery

the purpose of which was to coordinate benefits in cash with benefits in kind since “the services needed to deal with social insecurity are not cash benefits only, but health and welfare as well.”

The real value of most existing benefits was increased, with benefits rising at roughly the same rate as salaries over the course of the First Wilson Government, while family allowances were significantly increased.Sony VAIO VGN-SZ94PS Battery

By 1969, family allowances were worth 72% more in real terms to a low income family with three children than in 1964.

Redundancy payments were introduced in 1965 to lessen the impact of unemployment, earnings-related benefits for unemployment, sickness, industrial injuries and widowhood were introduced in 1966, followed by the replacement of flat-rate family allowances with an earnings-related scheme in 1968.Sony VAIO VGN-SZ94S Battery

In 1968, the universal family allowance was raised for the first time in a decade. This measure was considered to be redistributive to some degree,

“from richer to poorer and from mainly male taxpayers to mothers who received family allowances, a tentative move towards what Roy Jenkins called ‘civilised selectivity’".Sony VAIO VGN-SZ94US Battery

The National Insurance Act of 1966, which introduced supplementary earnings-related benefits for short-term sickness and unemployment, had far-reaching distributional consequences by “guaranteeing that insurance benefits rose at the same rate as wages in the late 1960s.” Sony VAIO VGN-SZ95NS Battery

Trade unions were supportive of the advances made in social protection by the Wilson government, which had a considerable impact on the living standards of the lowest quintile of the population. A statement by the TUC argued that the unions’ acquiescence to the government’s incomes policy was justified given that “the government had deliberately refrained from attacking the social services."Sony VAIO VGN-SZ95S Battery

The introduction of earnings-related unemployment and sickness benefits significantly reduced inequalities between those in work and those who were unemployed. In 1964, the net income received by the average wage earner, when on unemployment or sickness benefit, was only 45% of what he received at work, whereas by 1968 the figure had increased to 75%.Sony VAIO VGN-SZ95US Battery

The earnings-related supplement for unemployment benefits was made available to those who had earned at least £450 in the previous financial year. The supplement was paid after a twelve-day waiting period, and the rate was one-third the amount by which the average weekly earnings (up to £30) exceeded £9. Sony VAIO VGN-TZ121 Battery

The earnings-related supplement was based on the assertion that a person’s commitments for mortgages, rents, and hire purchase agreements were related to their normal earnings and could not be adjusted quickly when experiencing a loss of normal income. As a result of this supplement, Sony VAIO VGN-TZ13 Battery

the total benefit of a married man with two children went up by 52%, and that of a single man by 117.% The duration was limited to 26 weeks, while the total benefit was restricted to 85% of average weekly earnings in the preceding financial year.

Personal social services were integrated, expenditure increased and their responsibilities broadened following the enactment of the Children and Young Persons’ Act (1969) and the Local Authority Social Services Act (1970).Sony VAIO VGN-TZ130N/B Battery

The Children and Young Persons Act of 1969 reformed the juvenile court system and extended local authority duties to provide community homes for juvenile offenders. The legislation provided that “remand homes,” “approved schools,” and local authority and voluntary children’s homes became part of a comprehensive system of community homes for all children in care.Sony VAIO VGN-TZ131 Battery


The Doctor’s Charter of 1966 introduced allowances for rent and ancillary staff, significantly increased the pay scales, and changed the structure of payments to reflect “both qualifications of doctors and the form of their practices, i.e. group practice.” Sony VAIO VGN-TZ132/N Battery

These changes not only led to higher morale, but also resulted in the increased use of ancillary staff and nursing attachments, a growth in the number of health centres and group practices, and a boost in the modernization of practices in terms of equipment, appointment systems, and buildings.Sony VAIO VGN-TZ132N Battery

In 1967, local authorities were empowered to provide family planning advice to any who requested it and to provide supplies free of charge. In addition, medical training was expanded following the Todd Report on medical education in 1968. In addition, National Health expenditure rose from 4.2% of GNP in 1964 to 5% in 1969 and spending on hospital construction doubled.Sony VAIO VGN-TZ150N/B Battery

The Health Services and Public Health Act 1968 empowered local authorities to maintain workshops for the elderly either directly or via the agency of a voluntary body. A Health Advisory Service was later established to investigate and confront the problems of long-term psychiatric and mentally subnormal hospitals in the wave of numerous scandals.Sony VAIO VGN-TZ150N/N Battery

The Family Planning Act (1967) empowered local authorities to set up a family planning service with free advice and means-tested provision of contraceptive devices while the Clean Air Act (1968) extended powers to combat air pollution.


The Industrial Training Act of 1964 set up an Industrial Training Board to encourage training for people in work.Sony VAIO VGN-TZ160CB Battery

The Docks and Harbours Act (1966) and the Dock Labour Scheme (1967) reorganised the system of employment in the docks in order to put an end to casual employment. Trade unions also benefited from the passage of the Trade Dispute Act in 1965. This restored the legal immunity of trade union officials, thus ensuring that they could no longer be sued for threatening to strike.Sony VAIO VGN-TZ160N/B Battery

Nurses benefited from the largest pay rise they had received in a generation (according to one MP), and in 1969, the Employers' Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act was passed, requiring employers to insure their liability to their employees for personal injury, disease or death sustained in their place of work.Sony VAIO VGN-TZ16GN/B Battery

Wilson's government also ensured that low-income earners improved their position relative to that of average-income earners during its time in office. One of the principles of the government's prices and incomes policy was that low-paid workers would be given special consideration, Sony VAIO VGN-TZ16N Battery

and between 1965 and 1969 the earnings of the lowest paid workers increased slightly faster than the average (the increase in inflation in 1969–70 caused by devaluation, however, led to a deterioration in the position of low-paid workers). In addition, various steps were taken in 1968 to reduce the severity with which the “wage-stop” operated,Sony VAIO VGN-TZ16N/B Battery

a regressive mechanism which restricted the amount of assistance payable to an unemployed person. In 1966, extensions and improvements were made in the allowances payable out of the Industrial Injuries Fund to people who had been injured before 5 July 1948 and who were entitled to weekly payments of worker’s compensation.Sony VAIO VGN-TZ17/N Battery


The Transport Act (1968) established the principle of government grants for transport authorities if uneconomic passenger services were justified on social grounds. A National Freight Corporation was also established to provide integrated rail freight and road services. Sony VAIO VGN-TZ170N/B Battery

Public expenditure on roads steadily increased and stricter safety precautions were introduced, such as the breathalyser test for drunken driving.  The road building programme was also expanded, with capital expenditure increased to 8% of GDP, “the highest level achieved by any post-war government”.Sony VAIO VGN-TZ170N/N Battery

Regional development

Encouragement of regional development was given increased attention under the First Wilson Government, with the aim of narrowing economic dispratiies between the various regions. A policy was introduced in 1965 whereby any new government organisation should be established outside London and in 1967 the government decided to give preference to development areas.Sony VAIO VGN-TZ17GN/B Battery

A few government departments were also moved out of London, with the Royal Mint moved to South Wales, the Giro and Inland Revenue to Bootle, and the Motor Tax Office to Swansea. A new Special Development Status was also introduced in 1967 to provide even higher levels of assistance.Sony VAIO VGN-TZ17N Battery

In 1966, five development areas (covering half the population in the UK) were established, while subsidies were provided for employers recruiting new employees in the Development Areas.

The Industrial Development Act of 1966 changed the name of Development Districts Sony VAIO VGN-TZ18/N Battery

(parts of the country with higher levels of unemployment than the national average and which governments sought to encourage greater investment in) to Development Areas and increased the percentage of the workforce covered by development schemes from 15% to 20%, which mainly affected rural areas inScotland and Wales. Sony VAIO VGN-TZ180N/RC Battery

Tax allowances were replaced by grants in order to extend coverage to include firms which were not making a profit, and in 1967 a Regional Employment Premium was introduced. Whereas the existing schemes tended to favour capital-intensive projects, this aimed for the first time at increasing employment in depressed areas. Sony VAIO VGN-TZ185N/WC Battery

Set at £1.50 a man per week and guaranteed for seven years, the Regional Employment Premium subsidised all manufacturing industry (though not services) in Development Areas.

Regional unemployment differentials were narrowed, and spending on regional infrastructure was significantly increased. Sony VAIO VGN-TZ18GN/X Battery

Between 1965–66 and 1969–70, yearly expenditure on new construction (including power stations, roads, schools, hospitals and housing) rose by 41% in the United Kingdom as a whole. Subsidies were also provided for various industries (such as shipbuilding in Clydeside), which helped to prevent a number of job losses.Sony VAIO VGN-TZ18N Battery

It is estimated that, between 1964 and 1970, 45,000 government jobs were created outside London, 21,000 of which were located in the Development Areas.

Funds allocated to regional assistance more than doubled, from £40 million in 1964/65 to £82 million in 1969/70, and from 1964 to 1970,Sony VAIO VGN-TZ190N/B Battery

the number of factories completed was 50% higher than from 1960 to 1964, which helped to reduce unemployment in development areas. In 1970, the unemployment rate in development areas was 1.67 times the national average, compared to 2.21 times in 1964.Sony VAIO VGN-TZ190N/BC Battery

Although national rates of unemployment were higher in 1970 than in the early 1960s, unemployment rates in the development areas were lower and had not increased for three years. Altogether, the impact of the First Wilson government's regional development policies was such that, according to one historian, the period 1963 to 1970 represented “the most prolonged, most intensive, and most successful attack ever launched on regional problems in Britain.”Sony VAIO VGN-TZ191N/XC Battery

Urban renewal

The 1969 Housing Act provided local authorities with the duty of working out what to do about ‘unsatisfactory areas.’ Local authorities could declare ‘general improvement areas’ in which they would be able to buy up land and houses, and spend environmental improvement grants. Sony VAIO VGN-TZ195N/XC Battery

On the same basis, taking geographical areas of need, a package was developed by the government which resembled a miniature poverty programme. In July 1967 the government decided to pour money into what the Plowden Committee defined as Educational Priority Areas, poverty-stricken areas where children were environmentally deprived. Sony VAIO VGN-TZ198N/RC Battery

A number of poor inner-city areas were subsequently granted EPA status (despite concerns that Local Education Authorities would be unable to finance Educational Priority Areas). In addition, Section 11 of the 1966 Local Government Act enabled local authorities to claim grants to recruit additional staff to meet special needs of Commonwealth immigrants.Sony VAIO VGN-TZ250N/B Battery

The First Wilson Government made assistance to deprived urban communities a specific policy of national government in 1969 with the passage of the Local Government Grants (Social Need) Act, which empowered the Home Secretary to dispense grants to assist local authorities in providing extra help to areas “of special social need.”Sony VAIO VGN-TZ250N/N Battery

The Urban Aid Programme was subsequently launched to provide community and family advice centres, centres for the elderly, money for schools and other services,  thereby alleviating urban deprivation. In introducing the Urban Aid Programme, the then Home Secretary James Callaghan stated that the goal of the legislation was to Sony VAIO VGN-TZ250N/P Battery

“provide for the care of our citizens who live in the poorest overcrowded parts of our cities and towns. It is intended to arrest ... and reverse the downward spiral which afflicts so many of these areas. There is a deadly quagmire of need and poverty.”

Central government paid 75% of the costs of these schemes, which were nominated by local authorities in areas of ‘acute social need'.Sony VAIO VGN-TZ27/N Battery

As a result of this legislation, many ideas were put into practice such as language classes for immigrants, daycentres for the elderly or disabled, day nurseries, adventure playgrounds, and holidays for deprived or handicapped children. The schemes therefore proved successful in making extra social provision while encouraging community development.Sony VAIO VGN-TZ270N/B Battery

Twelve Community Development Projects (CDPs) were set up in areas with high levels of deprivation to encourage self-help and participation by local residents in order to improve their communication and access to local government, together with improving the provision of local services. Sony VAIO VGN-TZ27N Battery

In the years that followed, these action-research projects increasingly challenged existing ideas about the causes of inner-city deprivation, arguing that the roots of poverty in such areas could be traced to changes in the political economy of inner-city areas, such as the withdrawal of private capital (as characterised by the decline of manufacturing industries). Sony VAIO VGN-TZ28/N Battery

Although these projects eventually wound up in the late 1970s, they are still regarded by many today as representing “the high water mark of local involvement in area-based regeneration initiatives,” and helped pave the way for future regeneration schemes in the United Kingdom.Sony VAIO VGN-TZ285N/RC Battery

Liberal reforms

The Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Act (1970) made provision for the welfare of children whose parents were about to divorce or be judicially separated, with courts (for instance) granted wide powers to order financial provision for children in the form of maintenance payments made by either parent.Sony VAIO VGN-TZ28N Battery

This legislation allowed courts to order provision for either spouse and recognised the contribution to the joint home made during marriage. That same year, partners were given an equal share of household assets following divorce via the Matrimonial Property Act. The Race Relations Act was also extended in 1968 and in 1970 the Equal Pay Act was passed.Sony VAIO VGN-TZ290EAB Battery

Another important reform, the 1967 Welsh Language Act, granted ‘equal validity’ to the declining Welsh language and encouraged its revival. A new Ministry of Overseas Development was established, with its greatest success at the time being the introduction of interest-free loans for the poorest countries.Sony VAIO VGN-TZ290EAN Battery

Government expenditure was also increased on both sport and the arts. The Commons Registration Act (1965) provided for the registration of all commons and village greens, whilst under the Countryside Act of 1968, local authorities could provide facilities “for enjoyment of such lands to which the public has access”.Sony VAIO VGN-TZ290EAP Battery

The Family Provision Act of 1966 amended a series of pre-existing estate laws mainly related to persons who died interstate. The legislation increased the amount that could be paid of surviving spouses if a will hadn’t been left, and also expanded upon the jurisdiction of county courts, which were given the jurisdiction of high courts under certain circumstances when handling matters of estate. Sony VAIO VGN-TZ295N/XC Battery

The rights of adopted children were also improved with certain wording changed in the Inheritance (Family Provision) Act of 1938 to bestow opon them the same rights as natural-born children. In 1968, the Nurseries and Child-Minders Regulation Act 1948 was updatedto include more categories of childminders.Sony VAIO VGN-TZ298N/XC Battery

A year later, the Family Law Reform Act was passed, which allowed people born outside marriage to inherit on the intestacy of either parent.

The Race Relations Act of 1965 outlawed direct discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, and ethnic or national origin in some public places.Sony VAIO VGN-TZ33/B Battery

The legislation also set up a Race Relations Board. Thsi was followed by the Race Relations Act of 1968, which made racial discrimination illegal. The Criminal Justice Act of 1967 introduced suspended prison sentences and allowed a ten to two majority vote for jury decisions. Sony VAIO VGN-TZ33/N Battery

An Ombudsman (Parliamentary Commissioner) was appointed in 1967 to consider complaints against government departments and to impose remedies, while censorship of plays by the Lord Chamberlain was abolished (1969). In addition, the law on Sunday Observance was relaxed.Sony VAIO VGN-TZ33/W Battery

A number of private members’ bills related to consumer affairs, put forward by Co-operative MPs, became law under the First Wilson Government, and much of the consumer legislation taken for granted by contemporary British shoppers can be attributed to the legislation passed during this period. Sony VAIO VGN-TZ350N/B Battery

In 1968, the Trade Descriptions Act (the “shoppers' charter") was enacted by parliament, and a farm and garden chemicals bill also became law that same year. Other co-operative bills enacted during this period included a new Clean Air Act, a bill removing restrictions on off-licences, and a bill to promote agriculture co-operatives passed in 1967,Sony VAIO VGN-TZ350N/N Battery

which established "A scheme administered by a new Central Council for Agriculture and Horticulture Co-operation with a budget to organise and promote co-operation with agriculture and horticulture". The 1970 Chronically Sick & Disabled Persons Act, regarded as a groundbreaking measure, Sony VAIO VGN-TZ350N/P Battery

was the first kind of legislation in the world to recognise and give rights to disabled people, and set down specific provisions to improve access and support for people with disabilities. The government effectively supported the passage of these bills by granting them the necessary parliamentary time.  Sony VAIO VGN-TZ370N/B Battery

Partager cet article

Repost 0
Published by batterys - dans Laptop Battery
commenter cet article