Fourth National ministry

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British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain arrives at Munich, 29 September 1938
Chamberlain arrives at Munich, 29 September 1938.

The Fourth National Ministry was formed by Neville Chamberlain on his appointment as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on 28 May 1937. As a National Government it contained members of the Conservative Party, Liberal Nationals and National Labour, as well as a number of individuals who belonged to no political party.

On 3 September 1939 Chamberlain requested the formal resignations of all his colleagues and reconstructed his ministry in order to better face the Second World War. For the new ministry see Chamberlain War Ministry.

Policies[edit]

Foreign policy[edit]

Chamberlain is best known for his appeasement foreign policy, and in particular for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Germany. He said it brought "peace in our time" and was widely applauded. He also stepped up Britain's rearmament program, and worked closely with France. When in 1939 Hitler continued his aggression, taking over the rest of Czechoslovakia and threatening Poland, Chamberlain pledged Britain to defend Poland's independence if the latter were attacked. Britain and France declared war when Germany attacked Poland in September 1939.

Domestic policies[edit]

Chamberlain wanted to focus on domestic issues. He obtained passage of the Factories Act 1937, designed to better working conditions in factories, and placed limits on the working hours of women and children.[1] In 1938, Parliament enacted the Coal Act 1938, which allowed for nationalisation of coal deposits. Another major piece of legislation passed that year was the Holidays with Pay Act. The Housing Act 1938 provided subsidies aimed at encouraging slum clearance, and maintained rent control.[2]Chamberlain's plans for the reform of local government were shelved because of the outbreak of war in 1939. Likewise, the proposal to raise the school-leaving age to 15, scheduled for implementation on 1 September 1939, could not go into effect.[3]

Cabinet[edit]

Neville Chamberlain's First Cabinet, May 1937 – September 1939[edit]

For a full list of ministerial office-holders, see National Government 1935-1940.

Key office holders not in the Cabinet[edit]

Changes[edit]

  • February 1938 – Lord Halifax succeeds Eden as Foreign Secretary. Halifax is succeeded as Lord President by Lord Hailsham, who is succeeded as Lord Chancellor by Lord Maugham. Halifax is succeeded as Leader of the House of Lords by Lord Stanhope, who remains President of the Board of Education as well.
  • May 1938 – Orsmby-Gore inherits the title Baron Harlech. He subsequently steps down from the government and is succeed by Malcolm MacDonald as Colonial Secretary. Lord Stanley succeeds MacDonald as Dominions Secretary. Kingsley Wood succeeds Lord Swinton as Secretary of State for Air. Walter Elliot succeeds Wood as Minister of Health. John Colville succeeds Elliot as Scottish Secretary.
  • June 1938 – The Earl of Munster succeeds Lord Hutchison as Paymaster-General.
  • October 1938 – Lord Stanhope succeeds Duff Cooper (resigned) as First Lord of the Admiralty, remaining also Leader of the House of Lords. Lord De La Warr succeeds Stanhope at the Board of Education. Sir John Anderson succeeds De La Warr as Lord Privy Seal, with special responsibility for Air Raid Precautions. Malcolm MacDonald succeeds Stanley (deceased) as Dominions Secretary, remaining also Colonial Secretary. Lord Runciman succeeds Lord Hailsham as Lord President.
  • January 1939 – Sir Thomas Inskip succeeds Malcolm MacDonald as Dominions Secretary. MacDonald remains Colonial Secretary. Lord Chatfield succeeds Inskip as Minister for Coordination of Defence. William Morrison succeeds Lord Winterton at the Duchy of Lancaster, who becomes Paymaster-General outside the Cabinet. Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith succeeds Morrison as Minister of Agriculture. Lord Winterton leaves the Cabinet and the post of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, becoming Paymaster-General in succession to the Earl of Munster.
  • June 1939 – Herwald Ramsbotham succeeds Sir Philip Sassoon (deceased) as First Commissioner of Works and is succeeded as Minister of Pensions by Sir Walter Womersley.

List of Ministers[edit]

Members of the Cabinet are in bold face.

Office Name Party Dates Notes
Prime Minister,
First Lord of the Treasury
and Leader of the House of Commons
Neville Chamberlain Conservative 28 May 1937 – 3 September 1939
Lord Chancellor The Viscount Hailsham Conservative May 1937  
The Lord Maugham   9 March 1938  
Lord President of the Council The Viscount Halifax Conservative 28 May 1937 also Leader of the House of Lords
The Viscount Hailsham Conservative 9 March 1938  
The Viscount Runciman of Doxford Liberal National 31 October 1938  
Lord Privy Seal The Earl De La Warr National Labour 28 May 1937  
Sir John Anderson National 31 October 1938  
Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir John Simon Liberal National 28 May 1937
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury David Margesson Conservative May 1937  
Financial Secretary to the Treasury John Colville Conservative May 1937  
Euan Wallace Conservative 16 May 1938  
Harry Crookshank Conservative 21 April 1939  
Lords of the Treasury James Stuart Conservative May 1937 – September 1939  
Charles Kerr Liberal National 28 May 1937 – 4 April 1939  
Thomas Dugdale Conservative 28 May 1937 – September 1939  
Charles Waterhouse Conservative 28 May 1937 – 18 October 1937  
Ronald Cross Conservative 28 May 1937 – 18 October 1937  
Patrick Munro Conservative 18 October 1937 – September 1939  
Robert Grimston Conservative 18 October 1937 – 18 May 1938  
Stephen Furness Liberal National 20 May 1938 – September 1939  
Sir James Edmondson Conservative 4 April 1939 – September 1939  
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Anthony Eden Conservative May 1937  
The Viscount Halifax Conservative 21 February 1938 also Leader of the House of Lords until 27 October 1938
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Viscount Cranborne Conservative May 1937 – 20 February 1938  
The Earl of Plymouth Conservative May 1937 – 12 May 1939  
R. A. Butler   25 February 1938 – September 1939  
Secretary of State for the Home Department Sir Samuel Hoare, Bt Conservative 28 May 1937  
Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department Geoffrey Lloyd Conservative May 1937  
Osbert Peake Conservative 29 June 1939 (?)  
First Lord of the Admiralty Duff Cooper Conservative 28 May 1937  
The Earl Stanhope Conservative 27 October 1938 also Leader of the House of Lords
Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty Geoffrey Shakespeare Liberal National 28 May 1937  
Civil Lord of the Admiralty John Llewellin   28 May 1937  
Sir Austin Hudson, Bt Conservative 14 July 1939  
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries William Morrison Conservative May 1937  
Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith   29 January 1939  
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries The Earl of Feversham Conservative May 1937 also Deputy Minister of Fisheries
Secretary of State for Air The Viscount Swinton Conservative May 1937  
Sir Kingsley Wood Conservative 16 May 1938
Under-Secretary of State for Air Anthony Muirhead Conservative 28 May 1937  
Harold Balfour Conservative 16 May 1938  
Secretary of State for the Colonies Hon. William Ormsby-Gore Conservative May 1937
Malcolm MacDonald National Labour 16 May 1938
Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies The Marquess of Dufferin and Ava   28 May 1937
Minister for Coordination of Defence Sir Thomas Inskip Conservative May 1937  
The Lord Chatfield   29 January 1939
Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs Malcolm MacDonald National Labour May 1937  
Lord Stanley Conservative 16 May 1938  
Malcolm MacDonald National Labour 31 October 1938  
Sir Thomas Inskip Conservative 29 January 1939 Viscount Caldecote
Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs Marquess of Hartington Conservative May 1937 succeeded as Duke of Devonshire 6 May 1938
President of the Board of Education The Earl Stanhope Conservative 28 May 1937 also Leader of the House of Lords from 21 February 1938
The Earl De La Warr National Labour 27 October 1938  
Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education Kenneth Lindsay National Labour 28 May 1937  
Minister of Health Sir Kingsley Wood Conservative May 1937  
Walter Elliot   16 May 1938
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health Robert Bernays Liberal National 28 May 1937
Florence Horsbrugh Conservative 14 July 1939
Secretary of State for India and Burma The Marquess of Zetland Conservative May 1937
Under-Secretary of State for India Lord Stanley Conservative 28 May 1937
Anthony Muirhead Conservative 16 May 1938
Minister of Labour Ernest Brown Liberal National May 1937
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour R. A. Butler Conservative 28 May 1937  
Alan Lennox-Boyd Conservative 25 February 1938  
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster The Earl Winterton Conservative 28 May 1937 Office in Cabinet from 11 March 1938
William Morrison Conservative 29 January 1939
Paymaster General The Lord Hutchison of Montrose Liberal National May 1937  
The Earl of Munster Conservative 2 June 1938  
The Earl Winterton Conservative 29 January 1939  
Minister for Pensions Herwald Ramsbotham Conservative May 1937  
Sir Walter Womersley Conservative 7 June 1939  
Minister without Portfolio Leslie Burgin Liberal National 21 April 1939 – 14 July 1939  
Postmaster-General George Tryon Conservative May 1937  
Assistant Postmaster-General Sir Walter Womersley Conservative May 1937  
William Mabane Liberal 7 June 1939  
Secretary of State for Scotland Walter Elliot   May 1937  
John Colville   16 May 1938  
Under-Secretary of State for Scotland Henry Wedderburn Conservative May 1937  
Minister of Supply Leslie Burgin Liberal National 14 July 1939  
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Supply John Llewellin   14 July 1939  
President of the Board of Trade Oliver Stanley   28 May 1937  
Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade Euan Wallace Conservative 28 May 1937  
Ronald Cross Conservative 16 May 1938  
Secretary for Overseas Trade Robert Hudson Conservative 28 May 1937  
Secretary for Mines Harry Crookshank Conservative May 1937  
Geoffrey Lloyd Conservative 21 April 1939  
Minister of Transport Leslie Burgin Liberal National 28 May 1937  
Euan Wallace Conservative 21 April 1939  
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport Sir Austin Hudson, Bt Conservative May 1937  
Robert Bernays Liberal National 14 July 1939  
Secretary of State for War Leslie Hore-Belisha Liberal National 28 May 1937  
Under-Secretary of State for War The Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal Conservative May 1937  
The Earl of Munster Conservative 29 January 1939  
Financial Secretary to the War Office Sir Victor Warrender, Bt Conservative May 1937  
First Commissioner of Works Sir Philip Sassoon, Bt Conservative 28 May 1937
Herwald Ramsbotham Conservative 7 June 1939  
Attorney General Sir Donald Somervell Conservative May 1937  
Solicitor General Sir Terence O'Connor Conservative May 1937  
Lord Advocate Thomas Cooper   May 1937  
Solicitor General for Scotland James Reid   May 1937  
Treasurer of the Household Sir Lambert Ward Conservative 28 May 1937  
Hon. Arthur Hope Conservative 18 October 1937  
Charles Waterhouse Conservative 4 April 1939  
Comptroller of the Household Sir George Davies   28 May 1937  
Charles Waterhouse Conservative 18 October 1937  
Charles Kerr Liberal National 4 April 1939  
Vice-Chamberlain of the Household Hon. Arthur Hope Conservative 28 May 1937  
Ronald Cross Conservative 18 October 1937  
Robert Grimston Conservative 4 April 1939  
Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms The Earl of Lucan   May 1937  
Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard The Lord Templemore   May 1937  
Lords in Waiting The Viscount Gage   May 1937 – 11 April 1939  
The Earl of Munster Conservative May 1937 – 2 June 1938  
The Earl Erne   May 1937 – 25 July 1939  
The Earl Fortescue   26 August 1937 – September 1939  
The Earl of Birkenhead   12 July 1938 – September 1939  
The Viscount Bridport   11 April 1939 – September 1939  
The Lord Ebury   25 July 1939 – September 1939  

References[edit]

  1. ^ Graham Macklin, Chamberlain (Haus Books, 2006) p 158
  2. ^ Graham Macklin, Chamberlain (Haus Books, 2006) p 158
  3. ^ Taylor, 1965, p=406
  • Butler, David, and G. Butler, Twentieth Century British Political Facts 1900–2000
  • Cowling, Maurice. The Impact of Hitler: British Politics and British Policy, 1933-1940 (Cambridge University Press, 1975).
  • Feiling, Keith. A Life of Neville Chamberlain (London: Macmillan, 1970)
  • Macklin, Graham. Chamberlain (Haus Books, 2006)
  • Mowat, Charles Loch. Britain between the Wars: 1918-1945 (1955) PP 413-79
  • Raymond, John, ed. The Baldwin Age (1960), essays by scholars 252 pages; online
  • Roberts, Andrew. ‘The Holy Fox’: The Life of Lord Halifax (1997).
  • Self, Robert C. Neville Chamberlain: A Biography (2006) excerpt and text search
  • Smart, Nick. The National Government. 1931-40 (Macmillan 1999) ISBN 0-333-69131-8
  • Taylor, A.J.P. English History 1914-1945 (1965) pp 321-88
  • Thorpe, Andrew. Britain in the 1930s. The Deceptive Decade, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992). ISBN 0-631-17411-7

Primary sources[edit]

  • Neville Chamberlain. The Neville Chamberlain Diary Letters: The Downing Street Years, 1934-1940 edited by Robert Self (2005)


Preceded by
Third National Ministry
Government of the United Kingdom
1937–1939
Succeeded by
Chamberlain War Ministry