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Section - foundations of a welfare state

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During the first four years of Asquith's Administration which was formed in the summer of 1908, the TUC, operating chiefly through its Parliamentary Committee, continued its original policy of attempting to influence the government of the day with a view to introducing legislation for the increased protection and benefit of trade unions and of individual working men and women. And, during those years, Congress pressures met with considerable success, as the records show:

In 1908, the Mines Regulation Act, which limited the hours of underground work to eight a day, was finally passed by a rather reluctant Liberal Government; and, in the following year, the miners' representatives in the Commons, who had hitherto sat as Lib-Labs but were now disillusioned by Liberal hesitations, transferred their allegiance to the Labour Party. In 1909, Winston Churchill introduced his Trades Boards Bill, which established trade boards with powers to fix minimum wages in certain notoriously sweated industries employing a majority of women workers - ready-made tailoring, cardboard box making, ready-made blouse making and machine made lace and net finishing. In the case of this particular Bill, popular support was mobilised not so much by the TUC and its Parliamentary Committee (who were deeply preoccupied with pushing the Right to Work Bill) as by the Women's Trade Union League, whose dedicated leaders were Mary Macarthur and Susan Lawrence.

In the same year, however, there passed on to the Statute Book two Bills which did owe a great deal to TUC advocacy and research: the Old Age Pensions Bill and the Bill to establish Labour Exchanges. It is true that most of these measures became law in a form less satisfactory than that which the TUC had visualised and advocated. But these measures did at least register some social advance or establish some new principle. And, without the TUC they might never have become law at all.


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