The social welfare legislation passed by Lloyd George between 1906 and 1911 reveals a lot of his intentions but also asks questions of what he was really intending. It could be argued that the party had good intentions, to help people who needed it the most. However it could be argued that it was only for personal and political gain for both Lloyd George and the Liberals. Firstly it can be argued that the Liberal government introduced reforms because they felt the need to help people who needed it the most. There was widespread poverty in Britain at the time and little help from government to change this.
It was highlighted by the findings of Boothe and Rowntree which cause great humanitarian concern. The reforms were aimed to help all of the population. The Education act and Children’s act aimed to keep children health and safe therefore improving their lives and helping their education. There was the National Insurance act aimed to help the sick and unemployed workers therefore hopefully helping the economy and reducing poverty because of workers who were unable to work. There was also the Old Age Pensions act which aimed to help the older population by introducing pensions.It has been said that the Liberals believed a healthy and well educated work force was essential so they introduced these reforms to achieve this.
The New Liberals argued that there were circumstances where state intervention could help improve people’s lives. In the past the general view of people was that if the government provided people with welfare then they would not have any reason to work. However the Liberals wanted to encourage the poor to provide for themselves and they felt they could do this through contributory schemes that were subsidised by the state.They also felt that the rich should be putting money into helping the poor through taxation which will mean they have to pay more. This is a way of creating more money for welfare, but it has been said that it was also an attempt to get back at the Conservatives who were generally the rich population. However the fact that the Liberals in it self were introducing the reforms showed they were much more prepared to intervene than others in the past, this tells us that they were much more interested in helping the worst off and changing the way people saw the poor.
The new legislation aimed to help however it had a number of limits. For example, the first education act introduced provided medical inspections for children however it did not provide any way of treating the problems that were found, therefore many were left untreated. The Old Age Pension act was supposed to help those who were no longer able to work, however this also had a major problem, there were too many conditions which meant many who needed it were not eligible. The other schemes also had different limits, The National Insurance act for example was through contribution.This meant that the poor were having to provide much of there own reforms and showed a lack of investment from the government. Others were only through local authorities and were not compulsory, this indicates that although the Liberals wanted it to seem like they intended to help and did introduce some good legislation, they were not prepared to spend too much to help. This may mean that the legislation was for personal gain to the image of the party rather than helping the population.
Another possible intention for the reforms was to revitalise a government whose leader had resigned causing them to loose steam. With Asquith, Lloyd George and Churchill the move towards reform reinvented the party which became a vibrant and radical government. In 1909 the Peoples Budget was introduced aiming to use increased taxes to pay for government run schemes. The budget specifically targeted landowners, high income people and strongly opposed the Conservative government. It was very controversial and in turn was rejected by the heavy conservative House of Lords which caused a constitutional crisis.
The fact that even though the budget was rejected the Liberals didn’t just amend it they called a ‘one issue’ election shows us that they were determined to defend their welfare legislation. When the Liberals won the election and the House of Lords reluctantly accepted the budget they were able to concentrate on the constitutional reform. From this we can see that the Liberals really did intend to go with Social welfare no matter the cost and there main intention was to try and help the poor.Although it can be seen as a step in the right direction by the Liberals, through the crisis they were able to change the constitution for there own benefit. The Liberals gained the majority in the House of Lords and changed the constitution so that laws couldn’t be rejected more than three times. This means that the Liberals were able to pass the laws that they wanted to without much opposition. It brings up the question of whether they used the Peoples budget to gain in the House of Lords and that there intention was to become stronger rather than introducing welfare.The Liberals also achieved more gain from the publicity boost that they got from seeming like a party dedicated to welfare.
They needed it to survive the increasing support that Labour was getting from the public. From this I can see that the Liberal Government claimed that its intention was to help workers and the poor by providing them with welfare. However it can be argued that the other gains that the Liberals achieved from it were not by accident but rather planned and were ultimately there intentions.The question asks what the intentions of Lloyd George and the Liberal government were; in my opinion the two had different intentions. Many of the proposals were fiercely opposed by some members of the cabinet and Lloyd George and Churchill were the only ‘New Liberals’. In my opinion they were the only members who really intended on helping those who needed it.
I believe many other Liberals had different intentions and only went along with the reforms because they saw that other advantages could be gained from them.