A number of measures were introduced under the First Wilson Government to make Britain a more open and humane society. The Race Relations Act outlawed direct discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, and ethnic or national origin in some public places. The legislation also set up a Race Relations Board. The legislation also provided a strengthened Race Relations Board with powers to "conciliate" in cases of discrimination, which meant persuading discriminators to stop such acts and, if they refused to stop, legal action could be taken against them as an ultimate sanction.
The legislation also replaced the National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants with the Community Relations Commission, a statutory body. An Ombudsman Parliamentary Commissioner was appointed in to consider complaints against government departments and to impose remedies, while censorship of plays by the Lord Chamberlain was abolished In addition, the law on Sunday Observance was relaxed,  and a strengthening of legal aid was carried out.
Labour government, 1964–1970
The Criminal Evidence Act permitted documentary evidence "to be admitted at criminal trails in certain instances,"  while the Backing of Warrants Ireland Act cured an anomaly "which recent decisions of the Court had shown to exist in that field," while the British Nationality Act cured anomalies "as to the position of married women. Clerks, and the Criminal Procedure Act implemented the recommendations of the Criminal Law Revision Committee "as to the attendance of witnesses.
The Nuclear Installations Act placed a "strict" statutory duty on the operators of nuclear facilities to ensure that any exposure to radiation resulting from operations did not cause injury or damage. Under the legislation, claimants did not have to prove fault to receive compensation under the Act, only causation. This was followed by the Caravan Sites Act , introduced by the Liberal MP Eric Lubbock in , which obliged local authorities to carry out the recommendations of the circular.
Under the Act, gypsies became entitled to settle in many areas as well as to enjoy regular visiting rights for their caravans in others. 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. In the Trade Descriptions Act the "shoppers' charter" was enacted by parliament, and a farm and garden chemicals bill also became law that same year.
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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 , 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".
Wilson believed in a strong " Special Relationship " with the United States and wanted to highlight his dealings with the White House to strengthen his own prestige as a statesman. President Lyndon Johnson disliked Wilson, and ignored any "special" relationship. He agreed to provide financial help but he strongly opposed British plans to devalue the pound and withdraw military units east of Suez.
Vietnam was the sore point. Johnson repeatedly asked for British ground units to validate international support for American intervention, but Wilson stalled. He gave as reasons British military commitments to the Malayan Emergency. Instead he provided British help with intelligence, and training in jungle warfare, as well as verbal support. He also took the initiative in attempting numerous mediation schemes, typically involving Russian intervention, none of which gained traction.
Issues of foreign policy were rarely salient in general elections. Historian Jonathan Colman concludes it made for the most unsatisfactory "special" relationship in the 20th century. Among the more challenging political dilemmas Wilson faced during his two terms in government and his two spells in opposition before , and between and was the issue of British membership of the European Communities , the forerunner of the present European Union.
The Labour Party had been divided on the issue when in opposition, with former party leader Hugh Gaitskell having come out in in opposition to Britain joining the Communities. After initially hesitating over the issue, Wilson's Government in May lodged the UK's second application to join the European Communities. Like the first, though, it was vetoed by de Gaulle in November that year. The Labour Party in opposition continued to be deeply divided on the issue, and risked a major split. Leading opponents of membership included Richard Crossman , who was for two years —72 the editor of the New Statesman , at that time the leading left-of-centre weekly journal, which published many polemics in support of the anti-EC case.
Prominent among Labour supporters of membership was Roy Jenkins. Since Britain's presence in the Far East had gradually been run down. Former British colonies, whose defence had provided much of the rationale for a British military presence in the region, became independent.
London became increasingly conscious of the cost to the exchequer and the economy of maintaining major forces abroad in parallel, several schemes to develop strategic weaponry were abandoned on the grounds of cost, for example, the Blue Streak missile in Instead of building its own delivery system, Britain relied on purchase of American technology, especially the Polaris submarine-based missile that was purchased in Part of the price paid by Wilson for US financial assistance was his agreement in to maintain a military presence East of Suez. Some airmobile forces would be retained which could if necessary be deployed in the region.
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In January , Wilson announced that the timetable for this withdrawal was to be accelerated, and that British forces were to be withdrawn from Singapore, Malaysia, and the Persian Gulf by the end of Wilson held strong pro- Israel views. He was a particular friend of Israeli Premier Golda Meir. The British "retreat from Empire" had made headway by and was to continue during Wilson's administration.
The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland came to present serious problems. The Federation was set up in , and was an amalgamation of the British Colonies of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland and the self-governing colony of Southern Rhodesia. The Federation was dissolved in and the states of Zambia and Malawi were granted independence.
Wilson refused to grant independence to the white minority government headed by Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith which not willing to extend unqualified voting rights to the native African population. His government's view was that the native population was ingenuous, and doing that would lay them open to undue influence and intimidation.
The franchise was open to those who had achieved a certain fairly low standard of education, and to property owners, and to people of "importance", i. Smith's defiant response was a Unilateral Declaration of Independence , timed to coincide with Armistice Day at This involved British warships blockading the port of Beira to try to cause economic collapse in Rhodesia. A number of nations did not join in with sanctions, undermining their efficiency. Wilson declined to intervene in Rhodesia with military force, believing the British population would not support such action against their "kith and kin".
The two leaders met for discussions aboard British warships, Tiger in and Fearless in Smith subsequently attacked Wilson in his memoirs, accusing him of delaying tactics during negotiations and alleging duplicity; Wilson responded in kind, questioning Smith's good faith and suggesting that Smith had moved the goal-posts whenever a settlement appeared in sight. Elsewhere in Africa, trouble developed in Nigeria , brought about by the ethnic hatreds and Biafra's efforts to become independent.
Wilson supported the established new governments in former colonies and refused to countenance breakaway movements. Although the First Wilson Government had enacted a wide range of social reforms and arguably did much to reduce social inequalities during its time in office, the economic difficulties that it faced led to austerity measures being imposed on numerous occasions, forcing the government to abandon some of its key policy goals. Amongst the controversial austerity measures introduced included higher dental charges , the abolition of free school milk in all secondary schools in , increased weekly National Insurance Contributions , the postponement of the planned rise in the school leaving age to 16, and cuts in road and housing programmes,  which meant that the government's house-building target of , per year was never met.
There was also much controversy over the government's decision to reintroduce Prescription charges in after having abolished them in ,  although the blow of this measure was arguably by softened by the fact that many people were exempted from charges. In , arguably in response to sensationalist stories about supposed "scroungers" and "welfare cheats", the government made the decision to introduce a controversial new rule terminating benefits for single men under the age of Under this rule, young, single, unskilled men who lived in areas of low unemployment would have their supplementary benefits stopped after four weeks.
According to one writer, however, this policy did not help single mothers with only one child, Supplementary Benefit payments were reduced "by the amount of this increase," and tax allowances were adjusted "to recover the cost of family allowances from taxpayers, including some low earners. In the field of housing, the First Wilson Government has received criticism by historians for encouraging the building of high-rise council flats, continuing the high-rise boom launched by the preceding Conservative administration in when it introduced a progressive storey-height subsidy that gave large increments for four-, five-, and six-storey flats and a fixed increment for every additional storey above that.
According to the historian Andrew Thorpe, much of the high-rise and high-density housing that was erected proved to be poorly constructed and unpopular with tenants, and social and extended family networks were disrupted by rehousing, leading to increased strain on social services and therefore public expenditure as older, informal support networks were ruptured. As argued by Thorpe, Labour's accomplishments "were equivocal, and in retrospect many would see its policies as leading to significant social problems. According to another historian, Eric Shaw, in the rush to build, and to overcome shortages in funds, the First Wilson Government "succumbed to the fashion for high-rise blocks of flats.
High-rise council flats, according to Shaw, intensified class inequalities by becoming a low-grad reserve for the poorer sections of the working class, which reflecting the "extent to which Keynesian social democracy had departed from the traditions of ethical socialism, with its aspirations to construct institutions which would foster greater fellowship, a communal spirit and more altruistic forms of behaviour.
A proposed "minimum income guarantee"  for widows and pensioners was never implemented, together with Richard Crossman 's compulsory national superannuation scheme.
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This scheme, a system of universal secondary pensions, was aimed at providing British pensioners with an income closer to what they enjoyed during the best years of their working life, when their earnings were at their highest. According to Brian Lapping, this would have been Wilson's largest reform of social security, had it been carried out. By , the Labour Party was suffering serious electoral reverses. In May , Wilson responded to an apparent recovery in his government's popularity by calling a general election, but, to the surprise of most observers, was defeated at the polls by the Conservatives under Edward Heath.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Douglas-Home Shadow Cabinet. Sir Alec Douglas-Home — The exception to this pattern is the abolition of capital punishment, which Wilson had consistently supported, and which is discussed at some length in his book. Education and Policy in England in the Twentieth Century.
Bosanquet, Nicholas ed. Labour and inequality: Sixteen Fabian Essays.
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Fabian Society. Report of the Annual Conference of the Labour Party. The Party. Retrieved 14 January Page and Richard Silburn. Reid and Henry Pelling. Balchin and Maureen Rhoden. British Political Speech. Retrieved 10 April Handbook of Domestic Ventilation. Labour's first century Cambridge University Press, Owner-occupation in Britain Routledge, Printed by C.
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