Posts Tagged ‘Macmillan’

Nye Bevan on Solving the Housing Problem

May 14, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has put up a piece commenting on the increasing shortage of affordable housing due to Margaret Thatcher’s policy of selling off council houses. These have been bought up by private landlords and housing associations, who are charging rents that are unaffordable to many. As a result, the number of evictions has doubled in the past few years. See Mike’s article at

This is how the Thatcherite dream of Britain as a nation of home-owners ends

The Labour Party after the War launched a campaign of house building under Nye Bevan, in order to provide ‘homes fit for heroes’. It was not as successful as it could have been, largely because the high quality of the homes built meant that the numbers actually put up were smaller than were later built under MacMillan, when the quality requirements were relaxed. Nevertheless, it was quite an achievement.

Bevan’s vision for state provision of housing is laid out in the book From Beveridge to Blair: The First Fifty Years of Britain’s Welfare State, by Margaret Jones and Rodney Lowe (Manchester: Manchester University Press 2002). In it, he makes clear that he wishes to provide homes for the poor. At the same time, he does not want to create segregated areas where the poor are separated from the rich, or occupied mainly by retired people. The problem of social exclusion and ‘social cleansing’ of the poor from rich areas has also become acute under the Tories, especially in London where vast areas are now unaffordable to all but the extremely rich, with the consequence that the working and lower middle classes are being pushed out of their traditional neighbourhoods as these too are bought up by the middle classes.

I want to explain … the broad outlines of the Government’s housing policy. Before the war the housing problems of the middle classes were, roughly speaking, solved. The higher income groups had their houses: the lower income groups had not …. We propose to start to solve, first, the housing difficulties of the lower income groups. In other words were propose to lay the main emphasis of our programme upon building houses to let. That means that we shall ask local authorities to be the main instruments for the housing programme … It is … a principle of the first importance that the local authorities must be looked to as the organisation and source for the building of the main bulk of the housing programme …

Each year before the war about 260,000 houses were built for private enterprise alone, for sale, while the local authorities were confined largely to slum clearance schemes. They built about 50,000 houses a year under those schemes … I would like to ask the House to consider the grave civic damage caused by allowing local authorities to build house for only the lower income groups living in their colonies. This segregation of the different income groups is a wholly evil thing, from a civilised point of view … It is a monstrous affliction upon the essential psychological and biological one-ness of the community …

One of the consequences of this segregation was to create a insistence of uniformity … I am going to encourage the housing authorities in their lay-outs to make provision for building some houses also from the higher income groups at higher rents…

I hope that all age groups will be found hospitality in their schemes, and that they will not be segregated. I hope that old people will not be asked to live in colonies of their own – after all they do not want to look out of their windows on an endless processions [sic] of their friends; they also want to look at processions of perambulators….

The main emphasis on the housing programme, will be on the local authorities. I am fully aware there are certain forms of building organisations that may not be available for the public building programme. The local authorities are, therefore, allowed to license private buildings for sale up to a limit of £1,200 in the provinces, and £1,300 in London… These licenses are for the purpose of supplementing the main housing programme, and not for diverting building labour and materials that would otherwise flow into the public housing programmes…

I should like … to warn hon. Members against one aspect of this matter. There is a great deal of money available in this country for investing in house-building… I do not propose… to let this vast mass of accumulated money on a scarcity market, and to encourage people to acquire mortgages that will be gravestones around their necks…

It is not that we ourselves are against people owning their own houses … There is no desire on our part to prevent people owning their own houses…

The Leader of the Opposition when he was Prime Minister … said that this business of housing was going to be treated as a military operation. I entirely agree with him. If you wanted land for an airfield during the war, you did not have protracted negotiations with the landlord. We are going to have no protracted negotiations with the landlord for getting houses… We are going to ask the House to approve a Bill by which land for all public purposes, including housing-will be acquired by all those agencies which have powers of compulsory purchase… If it is agreed, as it is by the House, that land is needed for public purposes, there is no logic in those purposes being frustrated or held up because protracted negotiations have to go on with the owners of the land…

We, on this side of the House, have committed ourselves to no figures… The fact is that if at this moment we attempted to say that, by a certain date, we will be building a certain number of houses that statement would rest upon no firm basis of veracity…

When the materials and labour have been provided to the local authorities, we will provide the local authorities with housing targets…

In conclusion I would say this: I believe that this housing shortage can be solved. (Pp. 159-60)

Sadly, it wasn’t. Squalor and destitution remained. But it was a fair attempt, and far more successful than Thatcher’s policy, which has finally ended with landlordism and an acute housing shortage.

Vox Political: Is Cameron Hiding Information on the Poisoning of 7 Year Old Boy by Landfill Site

December 17, 2015

This should be a national scandal. Mike over at Vox Political, has reblogged this story from The Ecologist. Last Zane Gbangbola died in his bed from cyanide gas released from the landfill site on which his house was built on. He was seven years old. David Cameron was head of the COBRA emergency committee meeting, which may have ordered the cover up of information on the lad’s death.

See Mike’s Did Cameron order cover-up on landfill cyanide death of 7-year old? at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/17/did-cameron-order-cover-up-on-landfill-cyanide-death-of-7-year-old/.

The article suggests that Cameron may have done so to protect John Major, who refused to enact legislation requiring that toxic substances be effectively cleaned up before contaminated sites could be developed. If that’s true, it wouldn’t be the first or the only time a British Tory government has put economic benefits before human lives.

Channel 4 a few years ago broadcast a documentary about how MacMillan’s cabinet in the 1950s refused to clean up the London smog. This was literally killing thousands every winter from asthma and other respiratory complaints. The smog was partly caused by the poor quality coal used by the vast majority of the British public. The good quality coal was being sold to America as a way of paying Britain’s war debt. MacMillan was faced with a choice – either improve the quality of coal, or try to deceive the British public. He chose the latter. The British public was then told to wear a particular type of face mask that would supposedly protect them from the smog. It didn’t, and the government knew perfectly well it didn’t. They even recorded it in the cabinet notes. But they carried on, and people died.

Now it looks like Major’s done something similar, and Cameron’s done the age-old parliamentary duty of saving his predecessor’s reputation by withholding information.

Book Review: The Development of the British Welfare State

July 16, 2013

By Michael Sullivan (Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall/Harvester Wheatsheaf 1996)

Sullivan State Book

This is another history of the welfare state, though from the standpoint of narrative history, rather than the documentary approach of From Beveridge to Blair. Sullivan’s book was published in the mid-1990s, but I’ve included it here as much of the material it contains is still relevant today.

The book is divided into three parts. The first deals with the development of the British welfare state from the first Liberal legislation introducing old age pensions and health cover to the crisis in the welfare state in the decades from 1970 to the 1990s.

Part two deals with the individual welfare services – education, health policy and the NHS, the personal social services, post-war housing policy, and social security since the war.

The third part summarises the development and apparent decline of the welfare state, raising questions about it such as whether the welfare consensus was ever real.

Before the Welfare State

Chapter 1: ‘Before the Welfare State, covers the introduction of the first welfare legislation passed by Campbell-Bannerman’s Liberal government of 1906. It has sections on the Embryonic Welfare State, discussing the first old age pensions, Lloyd George’s People’s Budget of 1910, and Liberal Social Insurance; Social Democracy: the Political Source of Reformism?; Marxism and Labourism as Twin Threats to Welfare Statism; Fabianism, Ethical Socialism and Social Democracy, with further sections on Fabianism: Its Appeal for Labour, Fabianism’s Contribution to Labour Thinking and The Contribution of Fabianism Considered; Ethical Socialism: the Heart of Labour Reformism; Tawney’s Ethical Socialism: Labour and Social Policy and Labour Social Democracy: Social Reformism Comes of Age.

The Road to 1945: War, Welfare and the People’s Will

Chapter 2 discusses the war years and the run up to Labour’s 1945 election victory. It has sections on the career of Ernest Beveridge and his proposal for the creation of the welfare state, consensus with the major stakeholders, the government’s reaction to the Beveridge report, the debate over the report and disagreements in cabinet about it, the parliamentary debate on Beveridge, which resulted in 121 MPs voting against the government for its reluctance to implement the report’s proposals, which resulted in Churchill being forced to accept it. The chapter also examines the role of collectivism; the emergence of Labour; Social Policy in War Time, with further sections on health policy, this significance of war-time policy for the social policy of the post-war period; Education Policy; and Conclusion.

The Emergence and Growth of the Welfare State

This deals with the development of the welfare state from its foundation in 1945 to 1969. It has the following sections: the Emergence of the Welfare State; the Economic Context; the Post-War Welfare State; Developing Social Security; Introducing a National Health Service; Labour’s Housing Policy; The Mosaic of Reform and Conservatism; Conservative criticisms of the welfare state; Consolidationists versus radicals; Conservativism and Social Policy 1951-64, which has a section on Convervatives and anti-welfarism; Conservative Responses, including Conservative justifications of the welfare state; Reactions to the Right: the Challenge of Social Democracy, including sections on Titmuss’ defence of the Welfare State, Crosland and the Welfare state and his redefinition of socialism, citizenship and social policy, and the rediscovery of poverty; Emerging Issues and Labour and Social Policy, 1964-9.

The Welfare State in Crisis

This chapter deals with the period from 1970 to 1995. The first section, Farewell to Welfare Statism, has sections, on poverty and labour, challenges to Keynes and Beveridge and Enoch Powell and the ‘Rivers of Blood’ Speech; the 1970s; Labour on the Welfare Crisis; Conservatives and Social Policy; Welfarism and the new Conservatism; the New Conservative Experiment from 1979-1990, with subordinate sections on dealing with unemployment, restrictions on public expenditure, the National Health Service, radical approaches to social policy from 1983 to 1990; Public Resistance to the Dismantlement of the Welfare State; The Major Governments and Social Policy, with sections on whether the 1990 to 1995 administration was a development of Thatcher’s project or its demise, health policy in the Major governments, education policy in the 1990, rethinking the social agenda, and the Major administrations and social policy. The last section in this chapter is an appraisal of the New Conservatism’s Social Policy, including a discussion of its long-term strategy and incremental change.

Post-War Education Policy: Continuity and Change

The has sections on the Labour Government and the Butler Act; The issue of Comprehensives, including sections on the debate within the Labour Party, the movement away from comprehensive education by teacher’s organisations, and the first comprehensive schools; Education and Society, 1951 to 1964, including sections on the squeeze on education spending, and the replacement of the squeeze by increased spending, the continuing debate over comprehensive education in the Labour party, the question of whether there was a resurgence in the Labour Left, or if it was a redefinition of social democracy, evidence from sociological and psychological research, changes in schooling and changing attitude among parents, education and the economy, and the attitude of the Conservative Party; the various reports into education of the 1950s and 1960s; and the Robbins Revolution in the expansion of the higher education.

Education, Retrenchment, Privatisation and Consumers

This chapter deals with the period from 1965 onwards. It has sections on Education Policy and the Labour Governments, 1964-70, including sections on the Labour government and comprehensive education, the unusual method in which this policy was introduced by administrative circular, the way the cabinet was not involved in the introduction of the policy, relations between central and local government, the Labour party and the professionals involved, such as teachers, and the use of the circular to avoid opposition in parliament; Conservatives and Education, 1970-4, with sections on Margaret Thatcher and the comprehensive schools, her ending of free school milk, her initial policies of expanding education; Education Policy during the 1974 to 1979 Labour Governments, with sections on comprehensive schools and the ‘great debate’ on education; and the Thatcher governments and education.

Health Policy and the National Health Service

This chapter covers the post-war period up to the book’s publication. This has sections on the creation of the National Health Service; the period of initial conflict, followed by consolidation, with sections on demand and supply, consolidation, the question of hardening of inequalities and the power of the medical profession; From ad hoc innovation to rational planning, with sections on the 1962 Hospital Place, and financing the National Health Service; the return to the ad hoc approach to reforms, with sections on the 1974 reorganisation of the National Health Service; the question whether the new philosophies actually led to changes in service, with sections on further reorganisation, the Griffiths Report, general management and the marketization of the National Health Service, marketization and the National Health Service: competitive tendering, marketization and health: private practice, private insurance and private facilities, the national health service reforms, the National Health Service and Internal Markets, papering over the cracks in the White Paper, the 1990 National Health Service and Community Care Acts, and where the NHS may go from here. The last section, Making Sense of It All, has further sections on supply and demand and equality. The post-script to this chapter notes the proposed changes by the Labour government at the date the book was written.

Personal Social Services

This chapter begins with a short summary of the post-War social services, including a section on the reorganisation of state social work. There is then further sections on personal social services in the post-War period; the changes in the 1960s, with further sections on the Seebohm report and community development; attempts to fill the gap between aims and resources in the 1970s; the arrival of community social work in the 1980s, with a section on the disappearance of the Barclay Report as it challenged the Neoliberal ideology of the Conservative party; the return of Care in the Community; attempts to explain personal social services policy, including the sections on the Left’s critique, the attack from the Right, and personal social services and the New Conservatism.

Post-War Housing Policy

This begins with Labour’s attempts to end the housing shortage, followed by sections on Macmillan and Housing; the return of the market; the construction of high rise flats; Conservatives and the market; the New Towns; the ‘affluent society’ and housing policy in the 1960s, with sections on demographic change, the reaction to the Rachman scandal, Labour and housing policy from 1964-70, a new ideology and the decision to build more houses, the ending of the construction of high rise flats, and the existence of the homeless poor in the new welfare state; the record of Ted Heath’s Conservative government on housing 1970-4; Labour and Housing, 1974 to 1979; Changing policies to housing during Margaret Thatcher’s three administrations, with sections on the right to buy, the 1988 Housing Act. The last section is a critical summary of Post-War housing policy.

Social Security Since the War

This has sections on the Conservatives and Social Security, 1951-64, with a sections on pensions; Labour, and Poverty and Social Security, with sections on demographic and economic crisis, the rediscovery of poverty, and the Left’s reappraisal; the Heath Government and Social Security, with sections on Keith Joseph and the Family Income Supplement, the expansion of social security, the retrenchment in welfare spending due to the 1973 oil crisis, and the integration of tax and social security; Labour governments and social security policy; the Thatcher Governments and Social Security, with section on the 1976-8 review, her first administration, the 1980 ‘Annus Horribilis’, attacks on ‘scroungers’, the Fowler Review in Mrs. Thatcher’s Second Administration, Income Support, Family Credit, Housing Benefit, Social Fund, SERPS, the promise of radical change, and the 1988 Social Security Act; Emerging Issues, with sections on the preference for means-testing, the retention of work incentives, fraud and abuse, racism against the Black community, the contraction of the role of the state in favour of charities, self-reliance and independence, and the construction of residual welfare state; the 1990s, with sections on workfare and the Tory ‘Bastards’ in Major’s administration. The final section summarises briefly the changes in social security from 1945.

From the Cradle to the Grave: The Beginnings, Development and Demise of the Welfare State?

This final chapter reviews the progress and changes in the welfare state in order to question whether it is at its end. It has the following sections, on whether there was a real welfare consensus, Keyne’s, Beveridge and the origins of the 1945 welfare settlement; Neoliberal and Radical Right hostility to the post-War consensus as ‘backdoor tyranny’, and scepticism on whether the consensus ever existed at all; the question of whether the consensus has been smashed, with sections on the problems of Thatcher’s first administration, and her administrations from 1983 to 1990, the National Health Service, Education, Social Security and Personal Social Services, and Housing; Majorism and Welfare, with sections on social policy spending and his introduction of Thatcherite policies on the family and personal responsibility; continuity and change in the welfare state from 1945 to 1995; Continuity and change, with further sections on the debate over equality, professionals and welfare; further directions in the welfare state, with sections on Labour and the welfare state in the 1990s, Blair’s shift from social class to community, whether the effective re-making of the Labour Party meant the death of social democracy, economic prudence, the acceptance of internal markets in the NHS; New Labours emphasis on social responsibility rather than social rights, opt-out schools, from universalism and selectivism, ineffecitiveness and inefficiency and consumerism in the old welfare state, and Labour and consumer choice.

Each chapter has a chronology and suggestions for further reading.

The book provides a detailed examination of the development of the welfare state over its first fifty years, and the nearly forty years prior to its establishment by Clement Atlee. It covers the political debates and manoeuvring over policy, and includes extracts from the speeches and documents made and compiled by its architects, reformers and adversaries. These can be quite long – the speech by Lloyd George advocating his ‘people’s budget’ is well over a page. It thus provides a good overview of the welfare state’s history, and the changes from state provision to the post-Thatcherite political climate of hostility, privatisation and marketization, and the reliance on charities.