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Attlee ministry

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Attlee ministries

Cabinet of the United Kingdom
  • 1945–1950
  • 1950–1951
Attlee (1950)
Date formed
  • First: 26 July 1945 (1945-07-26)
  • Second: 23 February 1950 (1950-02-23)
Date dissolved
  • First: 23 February 1950 (1950-02-23)
  • Second: 26 October 1951 (1951-10-26)
People and organisations
MonarchGeorge VI
Prime MinisterClement Attlee
Prime Minister's history1945–1951
Deputy Prime MinisterHerbert Morrison
Total no. of members243 appointments
Member partyLabour Party
Status in legislatureMajority
393 / 640 (61%)
315 / 625 (50%)
Opposition partyConservative Party
Opposition leaderWinston Churchill
Outgoing election1951 general election
Legislature terms
PredecessorChurchill caretaker ministry
SuccessorThird Churchill ministry

Clement Attlee was invited by King George VI to form the Attlee ministry in the United Kingdom in July 1945,[1] succeeding Winston Churchill as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The Labour Party had won a landslide victory at the 1945 general election, and went on to enact policies of what became known as the post-war consensus, including the establishment of the welfare state and the nationalisation of some industries.[2] The government's spell in office was marked by post-war austerity measures, the violent crushing of pro-independence and communist movements in Malaya, the grant of independence to India, the engagement in the Cold War against Soviet Communism as well as the creation of the country's National Health Service (NHS).

Attlee went on to win a narrow majority of five seats at the 1950 general election, forming the second Attlee ministry.[3] Just twenty months after that election, Attlee called a new election for 25 October 1951 in an attempt to gain a larger majority, but was narrowly defeated by the Conservative Party, sending Labour into a 13-year spell in opposition.


The Labour Party came to power in the United Kingdom following its unexpected victory in the July 1945 general election. Party leader Clement Attlee became Prime Minister replacing Winston Churchill in late July. Ernest Bevin was Foreign Secretary until shortly before his death in April 1951. Hugh Dalton became Chancellor of the Exchequer, but had to resign in 1947, while James Chuter Ede was Home Secretary for the whole duration of the Attlee ministries' stay in power.[4]

Other notable figures in the government included: Herbert Morrison, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the House of Commons, who replaced Bevin as Foreign Secretary in March 1951; Sir Stafford Cripps was initially President of the Board of Trade but replaced Dalton as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1947; Hugh Gaitskell held several minor posts before replacing Cripps as Chancellor in 1950; Nye Bevan was Minister of Health; Arthur Greenwood was Lord Privy Seal and Paymaster General while future Prime Minister Harold Wilson became the youngest member of the cabinet in the 20th century (at the age of 31) when he was made President of the Board of Trade in 1947. The most notable of the few female members of the government was Ellen Wilkinson, who was Minister of Education until her early death in 1947.


It was an "age of austerity", as wartime rationing was continued despite the Allied Forces' victory, and was even expanded upon to include bread. Living conditions were poor; instead of expansion, the country's task was to replace the national wealth destroyed or used up during the war. The Great Depression did not return, and full employment was created. Returning veterans were successfully reabsorbed into the postwar society.[5] The Attlee government nationalised about 20% of the economy, including coal, railways, road transport, the Bank of England, civil aviation, electricity and gas, and steel. There was little money for investment to modernise these industries, and control was kept by the government, rather than passed to union members. The Attlee government greatly expanded the welfare state, with the National Health Service Act 1946, which nationalised the hospitals and provided for free universal healthcare. The National Insurance Act 1946 provided sickness and unemployment benefits for adults, plus retirement pensions.

The National Assistance scheme established under the National Assistance Act 1948 (11 & 12 Geo. 6. c. 29) provided for discretionary weekly additions to meet special circumstances like diets and laundry expenses, while at the discretion of the National Assistance Board ‘Exceptional needs grants’ (lump sum payments to meet expenditure arising from special categories of need) were also available. In addition, “Rent was treated as a separate item of requirement: householders would generally receive their net rent in full, whilst non-householders would receive a ‘reasonable share’ of the rent paid by the householder, subject to upper and lower limits.”[6] The National Assistance (Determination of Need) Regulations of 1948 laid down various entitlements to beneficiaries, such as a scale for blind and certain tuberculous patients and provision for applicants in local authority homes. A weekly sum in respect of requirements for rent was allowed, which in the regulations referred to “the weekly rent, or a proportion thereof, appropriate to a week, excluding arrears thereof, and the weekly proportion of outgoings borne by the householder including, in particular, rates, a reasonable allowance towards any necessary expenditure on repairs or insurance, and such portion as is for the time being attributable to interest of any sum payable in respect of (61.) a mortgage debt or heritable security charged on the house in which the householder resides, or on nay interest therein.”[7]

Various disregards were also made under the National Assistance Act 1948, including any death grant paid to a person under the provisions of section twenty-two of the National Insurance Act 1946, any maternity grant to which a woman is entitled under section fourteen of the National Insurance Act 1946, the first ten shillings and sixpence a week of any payment of sick pay received from a friendly society or trade union, the first ten shillings and sixpence a week "of any superannuation payment or superannuation payments in respect of previous service or employment from which the recipient has retired or resigned (whether payable by a former employer or not), not being a payment or payments— (i) on account of a pension under the Old Age Pensions Act, 1936 or under or by virtue of the Widows', Orphans' and Old Age Contributory Pensions Acts, 1936 to 1941, or under any enactment repealed by any of those Acts, or (ii) on account of a retirement pension under the National Insurance Act, 1946," any payment "in respect of retired pay or pension to which section sixteen of the [9 & 10 Geo. 5. c. 32.] Finance Act, 1919, applies, including any payment in respect of a dependants' allowance attached to such a pension," any payment "in respect of a disablement pension awarded under the [2 & 3 Geo. 6. c. 82.] Personal Injuries (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1939, including, an increase in such a pension in respect of dependants," any weekly payment "by way of compensation under any enactment relating to workmen's compensation," any payment "by way of disablement benefit under section twelve of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, 1946."[8]

More council housing was built, and plans were made through the New Towns Act 1946 (9 & 10 Geo. 6. c. 68) for the growth of suburbs, and to reduce overcrowding in major cities such as London and Glasgow. Since there was little money for detailed planning, the government adopted Keynesianism, which allowed for planning in the sense of overall control of the national deficit and surplus.[9][10][11] Two laws written by the Conservatives during the war were expanded, the Family Allowances Act 1945 and the Education Act 1944.

The Transport Act 1947 established the British Transport Commission, which took over control of the railways from the Big FourGreat Western Railway, London, Midland and Scottish Railway, London and North Eastern Railway and the Southern Railway—to form British Railways.[12]

In foreign affairs, the government was active in the United Nations and negotiated a $5 billion loan from the United States and Canada in 1946. It eagerly joined the Marshall Plan in 1948. It could no longer afford to support the Greek government and encouraged the U.S. to take its place through the Truman Doctrine in 1947. It took an active role in joining the United States in the Cold War and forming NATO. It gave independence to India, Pakistan, Ceylon and Burma and moved to strengthen the British Commonwealth.[13]

Nationalisation projects[edit]

The Labour Party comes to power with a programme for nationalising the essential sectors of the economy, some of which had been weakened during wartime: finance, heavy industry and natural resources, along with communication and transportation infrastructure.[14][15][16]
Coal industry under the National Coal Board.[17]
Bank of England.[18]
National Health Service created (with separate units in England, Wales, and Scotland and for Northern Ireland) taking over hospitals and making medical services free. NHS started operations in 1948.[19][20]
British Electricity Authority and area electricity boards.[21]
Cable & Wireless.[22]
National rail, inland (not marine) water transport, some road haulage, some road passenger transport and Thomas Cook & Son under the British Transport Commission. Separate elements operated as British Railways, British Road Services, and British Waterways.[23]
Local authority gas supply undertakings in England, Scotland and Wales.[21]
Iron and Steel Corporation of Great Britain (privatised by the Conservative Government in 1955, and renationalised by Labour in 1967 as British Steel Corporation).[24][25][26]

Social policies[edit]


Trafford General Hospital, known as the birthplace of the NHS

Attlee's Health Minister, Aneurin Bevan, fought hard against the general disapproval of the medical establishment, including the British Medical Association, by creating the National Health Service in 1948. This was a publicly funded healthcare system, which offered treatment for all, regardless of income, free of charge at the point of use. Reflecting pent-up demand that had long existed for medical services, the NHS treated some 8,500,000 dental patients and dispensed more than 5,000,000 pairs of spectacles during its first year of operation.[27]

Consultants benefited from the new system by being paid salaries that provided an acceptable standard of living without the need for them to resort to private practice.[28] The NHS brought major improvements in the health of working-class people, with deaths from diphtheria, pneumonia, and tuberculosis significantly reduced.[29] Although there were often disputes about its organisation and funding, British political parties continued to voice their general support for the NHS in order to remain electable.[30]

In the field of health care, funds were allocated to modernisation and extension schemes aimed at improving administrative efficiency. Improvements were made in nursing accommodation in order to recruit more nurses and reduce labour shortages which were keeping 60,000 beds out of use, and efforts were made to reduce the imbalance "between an excess of fever and tuberculosis (TB) beds and a shortage of maternity beds".[31]

BCG vaccinations were introduced for the protection of medical students, midwives, nurses, and contacts of patients with tuberculosis,[32] a pension scheme was set up for employees of the newly established NHS,[33] The National Health Service (Superannuation) Regulations 1947 laid down a number of provisions for beneficiaries including an officer’s pension and retiring allowance, an injury allowance, a short service gratuity, a death gratuity, a widow’s pension, and supplementary payments in the case of special classes of officers. Provision was also made for the allocation of part of pension or injury allowance to spouse of dependent.[34]

The Radioactive Substances Act 1948 set out general provisions to control radioactive substances.[35] Numerous lesser reforms were also introduced, some of which were of great benefit to certain segments of British society, such as the mentally deficient and the blind.[36] Between 1948 and 1951, Attlee's government increased spending on health from £6,000,000,000 to £11,000,000,000: an increase of over 80%, and from 2.1% to 3.6% of GDP.[37]


The government set about implementing the Wartime plans of William Beveridge's plans for the creation of a 'cradle to grave' welfare state, and set in place an entirely new system of social security. Among the most important pieces of legislation was the National Insurance Act 1946, in which people in work paid a flat rate of national insurance. In return, they (and the wives of male contributors) were eligible for flat-rate pensions, sickness benefit, unemployment benefit, and funeral benefit.[38] Various provisions were included in the National Insurance Act 1946 including unemployment and sickness benefit, maternity grant and attendance allowance, maternity allowance, widow’s benefit, widow’s pensions in special cases, guardian’s allowance, retirement pension, and death grant.[39]

Various other pieces of legislation provided for child benefit and support for people with no other source of income.[38] In 1949, unemployment, sickness and maternity benefits were exempted from taxation.[40]

A block grant introduced in 1948 helped the social services provided by local authorities.[41] Personal Social Services or welfare services were developed in 1948 for individual and families in general, particularly special groups such as the mentally disordered, deprived children, the elderly, and the handicapped.[42]

The Attlee Government increased pensions and other benefits, with pensions raised to become more of a living income than they had ever been. War pensions and allowances (for both World Wars) were increased by an act of 1946[which?] which gave the wounded man with an allowance for his wife and children if he married after he had been wounded, thereby removing a grievance of more than twenty years standing.[43] Other improvements were made in war pensions during Attlee's tenure as prime minister. A Constant Attendance Allowance was tripled, an Unemployability Allowance was tripled from 10s to 30s a week, and a special hardship allowance of up to £1 a week was introduced. In addition, the 1951 Budget made further improvements in the supplementary allowances for many war pensioners. From 1945 onwards, three out of every four pension claims had been successful, whilst after the First World War only one pension claim in three was allowed.[44] Under the Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1948, employees of a body representative of local authorities or of the officers of local authorities could be admitted "on suitable terms to the superannuation fund of a local authority".[45] In 1951, a comforts allowance was introduced that was automatically paid to war pensioners "receiving unemployability supplement and constant attendance allowance".[46]

The Personal injuries (Civilians) Scheme of 1947 included various benefits such as an exceptional maximum rate of constant attendance allowance of 40s a week, and an allowance for wear and tear of clothing caused by the use of artificial limbs and appliances. In addition, allowances payable while a pensioner underwent inpatient treatment “are normally no longer subject to a deduction in respect of decreased home expenditure.” Various changes were also made in respect of gainfully employed persons who sustained war injuries and civil defence volunteers who war service injuries. These included the provision of allowances for the wife and children for injured persons receiving injury allowance or disablement pension, amendments to the provisions for an allowance to a pensioner deemed unemployable by reason of his pensioned disablement “to secure that he receives in the aggregate by way of unemployability allowance and any social service benefits for which he is eligible at least 20s. a week in addition to his pension,” increases in the allowance payable for a wife of a person receiving treatment allowance, unemployability allowance or injury allowance under certain conditions and “if no allowance is payable for a wife, an allowance may be granted for a dependant adult,” and a social hardship allowance for partially disabled men “who, , though not unemployable, is prevented by his pensioned disablement from resuming his former occupation or taking up one of equivalent standard.” Also, “Where a man dies as the direct result of a qualifying injury his widow may be awarded a pension (with allowances for his children) without regard to the date of marriage.”[47]

A more extensive system of social welfare benefits had been established by the Attlee Government, which did much to reduce acute social deprivation. The cumulative impact of the Attlee's Government's health and welfare policies was such that all the indices of health (such as statistics of school medical or dental officers, or of medical officers of health) showed signs of improvement, with continual improvements in survival rates for infants and increased life expectancy for the elderly.[41] The success of the Attlee Government's welfare legislation in reducing poverty was such that, in the general election of 1950, according to one study, "Labour propaganda could make much of the claim that social security had eradicated the most abject destitution of the 1930s".[27]

Housing and planning[edit]

The New Towns Act 1946 (9 & 10 Geo. 6. c. 68) set up development corporations to construct new towns, while the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 instructed county councils to prepare development plans and also provided compulsory purchase powers.[48] The Attlee Government also extended the powers of local authorities to requisition houses and parts of houses, and made the acquisition of land less difficult than before.[49] The Housing (Scotland) Act 1949 provided grants of 75% (87.5% in the Highlands and Islands) towards modernisation costs payable by the Treasury to local authorities.[50]

In 1949, local authorities were empowered to provide people suffering from poor health with public housing at subsidised rents.[51]

To assist home ownership, the limit on the amount of money that people could borrow from their local authority in order to purchase or build a home was raised from £800 to £1,500 in 1945, and to £5,000 in 1949.[52] Under the National Assistance Act 1948 (11 & 12 Geo. 6. c. 29), local authorities had a duty "to provide emergency temporary accommodation for families which become homeless through no fault of their own".[53]

A large house-building programme was carried out with the intention of providing millions of people with high-quality homes.[27] A Housing act increased Treasury subsidies for the construction of local authority housing in England and Wales.[48] Four out of five houses constructed under Labour were council properties built to more generous specifications than before the Second World War, and subsidies kept down council rents. Altogether, these policies provided public-sector housing with its biggest ever boost up until that point, while low-wage earners particularly benefited from these developments. Although the Attlee Government failed to meet its targets, primarily due to economic constraints, over 1,000,000 new homes were built between 1945 and 1951 (a significant achievement under the circumstances) which ensured that decent, affordable housing was available to many low-income families for the first time ever.[27]

Development rights were nationalised while the government attempted to take all development profits for the state. Strong planning authorities were set up to control land use, and issued manuals of guidance which stressed the importance of safeguarding agricultural land. A strong chain of regional offices was set up within its planning ministry to provide a strong lead in regional development policies.[54] Comprehensive Development Areas (CDAs), a designation under the Town and Country Planning Act 1947, allowed local authorities to acquire property in the designated areas using powers of compulsory purchase in order to re-plan and develop urban areas suffering from urban blight or war damage.[55]

Women and children[edit]

A number of reforms were embarked upon to improve conditions for women and children. In 1946, universal family allowances were introduced to provide financial support to households for raising children.[56][57] These benefits had been legislated for the previous year by Churchill's Family Allowances Act 1945, and was the first measure pushed through parliament by Attlee's government.[58] The Conservatives would later criticise Labour for having been "too hasty" in introducing family allowances.[49]

The Married Women (Restraint Upon Anticipation) Act 1949 was passed in order to "to equalise, to render inoperative any restrictions upon anticipation or alienation attached to the enjoyment of property by a woman", while the Married Women (Maintenance) Act 1949 was enacted with the intention of improving the adequacy and duration of financial benefits for married women.[59]

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 1950 amended the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 to bring prostitutes within the law and safeguard them from abduction and abuse.[60] The Criminal Justice Act 1948 restricted imprisonment for juveniles and brought improvements to the probation and remand centre systems, while the passage of the Justices of the Peace Act 1949 led to extensive reforms of magistrates courts.[61] The Attlee Government also abolished the marriage bar in the Civil Service, thereby enabling married women to work in that institution.[62]

In 1946, the government set up a National Institute of Houseworkers as a means of providing a socially democratic variety of domestic service.[63]

By late 1946, agreed standards of training were established, which was followed by the opening of a training headquarters and the opening of an additional nine training centres in Wales, Scotland, and then nationwide throughout Great Britain. The National Health Service Act 1946 indicated that domestic help should be provided for households where that help is required "owing to the presence of any person who is ill, lying-in, an expectant mother, mentally defective, aged or a child not over compulsory school age". 'Home help' therefore included the provision of home-helps for nursing and expectant mothers and for mothers with children under the age of five, and by 1952 some 20,000 women were engaged in this service.[64]

Workers' rights[edit]

Various measures were carried out to improve conditions in the workplace. Entitlement to sick leave was greatly extended, and sick pay schemes were introduced for local authority administrative, professional and technical workers in 1946 and for various categories of manual workers in 1948.[65] Workers' compensation was also significantly improved.[66] A National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act 1946 was introduced that included various provisions like injury benefit, disablement benefit, increases of disablement pension in cases of unemployability, special hardship, constant attendance, and during approval hospital treatment, and increases of injury benefit and disablement pension in respect of children and adult dependents.[67]

The Fair Wages Resolution of 1946 required any contractor working on a public project to at least match the pay rates and other employment conditions set in the appropriate collective agreement.[68][69][70] In 1946, Purchase Tax was removed completely from kitchen fittings and crockery, while the rate was reduced on various gardening items.[63] The Employment and Training Act 1948 included provisions such as provisions as to training for employment as well as payments towards the cost of removing and resettling workers[71]

The Fire Services Act 1947 introduced a new pension scheme for firefighters,[72] while the Electricity Act 1947 introduced better retirement benefits for workers in that industry.[73] The Workers' Compensation (Supplementation) Act 1948 and introduced benefits for workers with certain asbestos-related diseases which had occurred before 1948.[74] The Merchant Shipping Act 1948 and the Merchant Shipping (Safety Convention) Act 1949 were passed to improve conditions for seamen. The Shops Act 1950 consolidated previous legislation which provided that no one could be employed in a shop for more than six hours without having a break for at least 20 minutes. The legislation also required a lunch break of at least 45 minutes for anyone for worked between 11:30am and 2:30pm, and a half-hour tea break for anyone working between 4pm and 7pm.[75] The government also strengthened a Fair Wages Resolution, with a clause that required all employers getting government contracts to recognise the rights of their workers to join trade unions.[76]

The Trades Disputes Act 1927 was repealed, and a Dock Labour Scheme was introduced in 1947 to put an end to the casual system of hiring labour in the docks.[77] This scheme gave registered dockers the legal right to minimum work and decent conditions. Through the National Dock Labour Board (on which trade unions and employers had equal representation) the unions acquired control over recruitment and dismissal. Registered dockers laid off by employers within the Scheme had the right either to be taken on by another, or to generous compensation.[78] All dockers were registered under the Dock Labour Scheme, giving them a legal right to minimum work, holidays and sick pay.[79]

Wages for members of the police force were significantly increased.[80] The introduction of a Miner's Charter in 1946 instituted a five-day work week for miners and a standardised day wage structure,[41] and in 1948 a Colliery Workers Supplementary Scheme was approved, providing supplementary allowances to disabled coal-workers and their dependants.[81][82] Various benefits were provided under the scheme, including a supplementary injury benefit, a disablement pension in respect of a colliery accident or colliery disease, death benefits, and Supplementary allowances.[83]

In 1948, a pension scheme was set up to provide pension benefits for employees of the new NHS, as well as their dependents.[84] Under the Coal Industry Nationalisation (Superannuation) Regulations 1950, a pension scheme for mineworkers was established.[85] Improvements were also made in farmworkers' wages,[44] and the Agricultural Wages Board in 1948 not only safeguarded wage levels, but also ensured that workers were provided with accommodation.[86]

A number of regulations aimed at safeguarding the health and safety of people at work were also introduced during Attlee's time in office. Regulations were issued in February 1946 applying to factories involved with "manufacturing briquettes or blocks of fuel consisting of coal, coal dust, coke or slurry with pitch as a binding .substance," and which concerned "dust and ventilation, washing facilities and clothing accommodation, medical supervision and examination, skin and eye protection and messrooms".[87] The Coal Mines (Ventilation) General Regulations dated 17 May 1947 "implement recommendations of the Royal Commission on Safety in Coal Mines regarding two main topics: methods of checking periodically the general standard of ventilation and methods of minimising leakage of air. Provisions are laid down respecting determinations of firedamp content and methods by which these determinations are to be made."[88] The Radioactive Substances Act, dated 30 June 1948, " which regulates the importation, manufacture, sale, storage and use of radioactive substances, includes provisions empowering the appropriate Minister to issue regulations for the prevention of injuries to health caused by ionising radiations and for securing the safe disposal of radioactive waste products."[89] The Dry Cleaning Special Regulations, 1949 dated 29 November 1949 sought "to prohibit the use of liquids with a flash point below 32°C. (90°F.) from being used for dry cleaning otherwise than by spotting."[90] The Blasting (Castings and Other Articles) Special Regulations 1949, "prohibit sandblasting and deal with the blasting enclosure, the cleaning of used abrasive, ventilation plant, inspection, examination and maintenance of equipment, personal protective equipment and clothing, the cleaning of blasting equipment, the employment of young persons, and the reporting of defects in the equipment. Sandblasting is prohibited in Section 5, which reads: "No sand or other substance containing free silica shall be introduced as an abrasive into any blasting apparatus." The Chief Inspector is empowered to grant exemptions from the regulations."[90] UK: The matters dealt with by the Jute (Safety, Health and Welfare) Regulations dated 21 July 1948 "include the lifting and carrying of loads by women and young persons, ventilation, temperature and humidity, welfare, construction and use of machinery and sale and hire of machinery".[89]

The Magnesium (Grinding of Castings and Other Articles) (Special Regulations) Order of December 1946 contained special measures "respecting the maintenance of plant and apparatus; precautions against causing sparks; the interception and removal of dust; automatic operation of appliances; protective clothing; and prohibition of smoking, open lights and fires".[91] For those workers engaged in luminising processes, the Factories (Luminising) Special Regulations (1947) prohibited the employment of those under the age of 18 and ordered "an initial medical examination to be carried out before the seventh day of employment; subsequent examinations are to be carried out once a month".Under the terms of the Blasting (Castings and Other Articles) Special Regulations (1949) "no sand or other substance containing free silica is to be employed in any blasting process", while the Foundries (Parting Materials) Special Regulations (1950) prohibited the use of certain parting powders "which give rise to a substantial risk of silicosis".[92]

The Building (Safety, Health & Welfare) Regulations 1948 required that measures should be taken to minimise exposure to potentially harmful dust or fumes,[93] while the Pottery (Health) Special Regulations (1947) prohibited the use "except in the manufacture of glazed tiles" of all "but leadless or low solubility glazes and prescribe certain processes in which ground or powdered flint or quartz are not to be employed".[92] The Pottery (Health and Welfare) Special Regulations 1950 made provision for the health and safety of workers employed in factories "in which there is carried on the manufacture or decoration of pottery or certain allied manufactures or processes".[94]


Various law reforms were also carried out by Attlee's government. The Criminal Justice Act 1948 provided for new methods to deal with offenders, and abolished hard labour, penal servitude, prison divisions and whipping.[95] The Law Reform (Personal Injuries) Act 1948 enabled employees to sue their employers in cases where they experienced injury due to the negligence of a fellow employee.[96] The Legal Aid and Advice Act 1949 introduced a state aided scheme to assist those who couldn't afford legal services.[97] The Witnesses Allowances Regulations 1948 provided for the payment of a professional witness allowance, a night allowance, and an expert witness allowance in certain cases.[98]

Post-war consensus[edit]

Most historians argue that the main domestic policies (except nationalisation of steel) reflected a broad bipartisan consensus. The post-war consensus is a historians' model of political agreement from 1945 to the late-1970s. In 1979 newly elected Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher rejected and reversed it.[99] The concept claims there was a widespread consensus that covered support for coherent package of policies that were developed in the 1930s, promised during the Second World War, and enacted under Attlee. The policies dealt with a mixed economy, Keynesianism, and a broad welfare state.[100] In recent years the validity of the interpretation has been debated by historians.

The historians' model of the post-war consensus was most fully developed by Paul Addison.[101] The basic argument is that in the 1930s, Liberal Party intellectuals led by John Maynard Keynes and William Beveridge developed a series of plans that became especially attractive as the wartime government promised a much better post-war Britain and saw the need to engage every sector of society. The coalition government during the war, headed by Churchill and Attlee, signed off on a series of white papers that promised Britain a much improved welfare state. After the war, the promises included the National Health Service, and expansion of education, housing, and a number of welfare programmes. It did not include the nationalisation of iron and steel, which was approved only by the Labour Party.

The model states that from 1945 until the arrival of Thatcher in 1979, there was a broad multi-partisan national consensus on social and economic policy, especially regarding the welfare state, nationalised health services, educational reform, a mixed economy, government regulation, Keynesian macroeconomic policies, and full employment. Apart from the question of nationalisation of some industries, these policies were broadly accepted by the three major parties, as well as by industry, the financial community and the labour movement. Until the 1980s, historians generally agreed on the existence and importance of the consensus. Some historians such as Ralph Miliband expressed disappointment that the consensus was a modest or even conservative package that blocked a fully socialized society.[102] Historian Angus Calder complained bitterly that the post-war reforms were an inadequate reward for the wartime sacrifices, and a cynical betrayal of the people's hope for a more just post-war society.[103] In recent years, there has been a historiographical debate on whether such a consensus ever existed.[104]


In the February 1950 general election the Labour Party narrowly maintained their majority by just 5 seats. This was insufficient to govern however, due to the Bevanite split causing tensions in the party. Another general election was called in 1951 to try and increase their majority. However, in the October 1951 general elections the Conservatives returned to power under Winston Churchill. Labour was to remain out of office for the next thirteen years, until 1964, when Harold Wilson became Prime Minister.


First Attlee ministry[edit]



Second Attlee ministry[edit]


  • October 1950: Hugh Gaitskell succeeds Sir Stafford Cripps as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
  • January 1951: Aneurin Bevan succeeds George Isaacs as Minister of Labour and National service. Bevan's successor as Minister of Health is not in the cabinet. Hugh Dalton's post is renamed Minister of Local Government and Planning.
  • March 1951: Herbert Morrison succeeds Ernest Bevin as Foreign Secretary. Lord Addison succeeds Morrison as Lord President. Bevin succeeds Addison as Lord Privy Seal. James Chuter Ede succeeds Morrison as Leader of the House of Commons whilst remaining Home Secretary.
  • April 1951: Richard Stokes succeeds Ernest Bevin (deceased) as Lord Privy Seal. Alf Robens succeeds Aneurin Bevan (resigned) as Minister of Labour and National Service. Sir Hartley Shawcross succeeds Harold Wilson (resigned) as President of the Board of Trade.

List of ministers[edit]

Members of the Cabinet are in bold face.

Office Name Dates Notes
Prime Minister
and First Lord of the Treasury
Clement Attlee 26 July 1945 – 26 October 1951  
Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain The Viscount Jowitt 27 July 1945  
Lord President of the Council Herbert Morrison 27 July 1945 also Leader of the House of Commons
The Viscount Addison 9 March 1951 also Leader of the House of Lords
Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal Arthur Greenwood 27 July 1945  
The Lord Inman 17 April 1947  
The Viscount Addison 7 October 1947 also Leader of the House of Lords
Ernest Bevin 9 March 1951  
Richard Stokes 26 April 1951 Also Minister of Materials from 6 July 1951
Chancellor of the Exchequer Hugh Dalton 27 July 1945  
Sir Stafford Cripps 13 November 1947  
Hugh Gaitskell 19 October 1950  
Minister of Economic Affairs Sir Stafford Cripps 29 September 1947 New office. Combined with Chancellor of the Exchequer November 1947
Hugh Gaitskell 28 February 1950 – 19 October 1950  
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury William Whiteley 3 August 1945  
Financial Secretary to the Treasury Glenvil Hall 4 August 1945  
Douglas Jay 2 March 1950  
Economic Secretary to the Treasury Douglas Jay 5 December 1947 Office vacant 2 March 1950
John Edwards 19 October 1950  
Lords of the Treasury Robert Taylor 4 August 1945 – 26 October 1951  
Joseph Henderson 4 August 1945 – 1 January 1950  
Michael Stewart 10 August 1945 – 30 March 1946  
Arthur Blenkinsop 10 August 1945 – 10 May 1946  
Frank Collindridge 10 August 1945 – 9 December 1946  
Charles Simmons 30 March 1946 – 1 February 1949  
William Hannan 10 May 1946 – 26 October 1951  
Julian Snow 9 December 1946 – 3 March 1950  
Richard Adams 1 February 1949 – 23 April 1950  
William Wilkins 1 January 1950 – 26 October 1951  
Herbert Bowden 3 March 1950 – 26 October 1951  
Charles Royle 23 April 1950 – 26 October 1951  
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Ernest Bevin 27 July 1945  
Herbert Morrison 9 March 1951  
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Philip Noel-Baker 3 August 1945  
Hector McNeil 4 October 1946  
Kenneth Younger 28 February 1950  
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Hector McNeil 4 August 1945 – 4 October 1946  
Christopher Mayhew 4 October 1946 – 2 March 1950  
The Lord Henderson 7 June 1948 – 26 October 1951  
Ernest Davies 2 March 1950 – 26 October 1951  
Secretary of State for the Home Department James Chuter Ede 3 August 1945 also Leader of the House of Commons 1951
Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department George Oliver 4 August 1945  
Kenneth Younger 7 October 1947  
Geoffrey de Freitas 2 March 1950  
First Lord of the Admiralty A. V. Alexander 3 August 1945  
George Hall 4 October 1946 Not in cabinet
The Lord Pakenham 24 May 1951  
Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty John Dugdale 4 August 1945  
James Callaghan 2 March 1950  
Civil Lord of the Admiralty Walter James Edwards 4 August 1945  
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Tom Williams 3 August 1945  
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries The Earl of Huntingdon 4 August 1945 – 22 November 1950  
Percy Collick 5 September 1945 – 7 October 1947  
George Brown 7 October 1947 – 26 April 1951  
The Earl of Listowel 22 November 1950 – 26 October 1951  
Arthur Champion 26 April 1951 – 26 October 1951  
Secretary of State for Air The Viscount Stansgate 3 August 1945  
Philip Noel-Baker 4 October 1946 Not in Cabinet
Arthur Henderson 7 October 1947  
Under-Secretary of State for Air John Strachey 4 August 1945  
Geoffrey de Freitas 27 May 1946  
Aidan Crawley 2 March 1950  
Minister of Aircraft Production John Wilmot 4 August 1945 Office abolished 1 April 1946
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aircraft Production Arthur Woodburn 4 August 1945  
Minister of Civil Aviation The Lord Winster 4 August 1945  
The Lord Nathan 4 October 1946  
The Lord Pakenham 31 May 1948 Office in Cabinet until 28 February 1950
The Lord Ogmore 1 June 1951  
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation Ivor Thomas 10 August 1945  
George Lindgren 4 October 1946  
Frank Beswick 2 March 1950  
Secretary of State for the Colonies George Hall 3 August 1945  
Arthur Creech Jones 4 October 1946  
James Griffiths 28 February 1950  
Minister of State for the Colonies The Earl of Listowel 4 January 1948  
John Dugdale 28 February 1950  
Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies Arthur Creech Jones 4 August 1945  
Ivor Thomas 4 October 1946  
David Rees-Williams 7 October 1947  
Thomas Fotheringham Cook 2 March 1950  
Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations The Viscount Addison 7 July 1947 also Leader of the House of Lords
Philip Noel-Baker 7 October 1947  
Patrick Gordon Walker 28 February 1950  
Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations Arthur Henderson 14 August 1947 – 7 October 1947  
Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations Arthur Bottomley 7 July 1947  
Patrick Gordon Walker 7 October 1947  
The Lord Holden 2 March 1950  
David Rees-Williams 4 July 1950 Lord Ogmore from 5 July
The Earl of Lucan 1 July 1951  
Minister of Defence Clement Attlee 27 July 1945 Also Prime Minister
A. V. Alexander 20 December 1946  
Emanuel Shinwell 28 February 1950  
Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs The Viscount Addison 3 August 1945 also Leader of the House of Lords; became Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations 7 July 1947
Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs John Parker 4 August 1945  
Arthur Bottomley 10 May 1946  
Minister of Education Ellen Wilkinson 3 August 1945  
George Tomlinson 10 February 1947  
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education Arthur Jenkins 4 August 1945  
David Hardman 30 October 1945  
Minister of Food Sir Ben Smith 3 August 1945  
John Strachey 27 May 1946  
Maurice Webb 28 February 1950  
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food Edith Summerskill 4 August 1945  
Stanley Evans 2 March 1950  
Fred Willey 18 April 1950  
Minister of Fuel and Power Emanuel Shinwell 3 August 1945  
Hugh Gaitskell 7 October 1947 Office no longer in Cabinet
Philip Noel-Baker 28 February 1950  
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power William Foster 4 August 1945  
Hugh Gaitskell 10 May 1946  
Alfred Robens 7 October 1947  
Harold Neal 26 April 1951  
Minister of Health Aneurin Bevan 3 August 1945  
Hilary Marquand 17 January 1951 Office not in Cabinet
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health Charles Key 4 August 1945  
John Edwards 12 February 1947  
Arthur Blenkinsop 1 February 1949  
Secretary of State for India and Burma The Lord Pethick-Lawrence 3 August 1945  
The Earl of Listowel 17 April 1947 Offices abolished 14 August 1947 (India) and 4 January 1948 (Burma)
Under-Secretary of State for India and Burma Arthur Henderson 4 August 1945 – 14 August 1947  
Minister of Information Edward Williams 4 August 1945  
The Earl of Listowel 26 February 1946 Office abolished 31 March 1946
Minister of Labour and National Service George Isaacs 3 August 1945  
Aneurin Bevan 18 January 1951  
Alfred Robens 24 April 1951  
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour Ness Edwards 4 August 1945  
Fred Lee 2 March 1950  
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster John Hynd 4 August 1945  
The Lord Pakenham 17 April 1947  
Hugh Dalton 31 May 1948 Office in Cabinet
The Viscount Alexander of Hillsborough 28 February 1950  
Minister of National Insurance James Griffiths 4 August 1945  
Edith Summerskill 28 February 1950  
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of National Insurance George Lindgren 4 August 1945  
Tom Steele 4 October 1946  
Bernard Taylor 2 March 1950  
Paymaster General office vacant    
Arthur Greenwood 9 July 1946  
Hilary Marquand 5 March 1947  
The Viscount Addison 2 July 1948 also Leader of the House of Lords
The Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor 1 April 1949  
Minister without Portfolio A. V. Alexander 4 October 1946 – 20 December 1946  
Arthur Greenwood 17 April 1947 – 29 September 1947  
Minister of Pensions Wilfred Paling 3 August 1945  
John Hynd 17 April 1947  
George Buchanan 7 October 1947  
Hilary Marquand 2 July 1948  
George Isaacs 17 January 1951  
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions Jennie Adamson 4 August 1945  
Arthur Blenkinsop 10 May 1946  
Charles Simmons 1 February 1949  
Postmaster General The Earl of Listowel 4 August 1945  
Wilfred Paling 17 April 1947  
Ness Edwards 28 February 1950  
Assistant Postmaster General Wilfrid Burke 10 August 1945  
Charles Rider Hobson 7 October 1947  
Secretary of State for Scotland Joseph Westwood 3 August 1945  
Arthur Woodburn 7 October 1947  
Hector McNeil 28 February 1950  
Under-Secretary of State for Scotland George Buchanan 4 August 1945 – 7 October 1947  
Tom Fraser 4 August 1945 – 26 October 1951  
John James Robertson 7 October 1947 – 26 October 1951  
Margaret Herbison 2 March 1950 – 26 October 1951  
Minister of Supply John Wilmot 3 August 1945  
George Strauss 7 October 1947  
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply William Leonard 4 August 1945 – 7 October 1947  
Arthur Woodburn 1 April 1946 – 7 October 1947  
John Freeman 7 October 1947 – 23 April 1951  
John Henry Jones 7 October 1947 – 2 March 1950  
Michael Stewart 2 May 1951 – 26 October 1951  
Minister of Town and Country Planning Lewis Silkin 4 August 1945  
Hugh Dalton 28 February 1950 Became Minister of Local Government and Planning 31 January 1951
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning Fred Marshall 10 August 1945  
Evelyn King 7 October 1947  
George Lindgren 2 March 1950  
President of the Board of Trade Sir Stafford Cripps 27 July 1945  
Harold Wilson 29 September 1947  
Sir Hartley Shawcross 24 April 1951  
Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade Ellis Smith 4 August 1945  
John Belcher 12 January 1946  
John Edwards 1 February 1949  
Hervey Rhodes 2 March 1950  
Secretary for Overseas Trade Hilary Marquand 4 August 1945  
Harold Wilson 5 March 1947  
Arthur Bottomley 7 October 1947  
Minister of Transport Alfred Barnes 3 August 1945  
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport George Strauss 4 August 1945  
James Callaghan 7 October 1947  
The Lord Lucas of Chilworth 2 March 1950  
Secretary of State for War Jack Lawson 3 August 1945  
Frederick Bellenger 4 October 1946  
Emanuel Shinwell 7 October 1947  
John Strachey 28 February 1950  
Under-Secretary of State for War The Lord Nathan 4 August 1945  
The Lord Pakenham 4 October 1946 – 17 April 1947 Office combined with Financial Secretary
Financial Secretary to the War Office Frederick Bellenger 4 August 1945  
John Freeman 4 October 1946 Under-Secretary role incorporated 17 April 1947
Michael Stewart 7 October 1947  
Woodrow Wyatt 2 May 1951  
Minister of Works George Tomlinson 4 August 1945  
Charles Key 10 February 1947  
Richard Stokes 28 February 1950  
George Brown 26 April 1951  
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works Harold Wilson 4 August 1945  
Evan Durbin 5 March 1947  
The Lord Morrison 26 September 1948  
Attorney General Sir Hartley Shawcross 4 August 1945  
Sir Frank Soskice 24 April 1951  
Solicitor General Sir Frank Soskice 4 August 1945  
Sir Lynn Ungoed-Thomas 24 April 1951  
Lord Advocate George Reid Thomson 10 August 1945  
John Wheatley 7 October 1947  
Solicitor General for Scotland Daniel Patterson Blades 10 September 1945  
John Wheatley 19 March 1947  
Douglas Johnston 24 October 1947  
Treasurer of the Household George Mathers 4 August 1945  
Arthur Pearson 30 March 1946  
Comptroller of the Household Arthur Pearson 4 August 1945  
Michael Stewart 30 March 1946  
Frank Collindridge 9 December 1946  
Vice-Chamberlain of the Household Julian Snow 10 August 1945  
Michael Stewart 9 December 1946  
Ernest Popplewell 16 October 1947  
Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms The Lord Ammon 4 August 1945  
The Lord Shepherd 18 October 1949  
Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard The Lord Walkden 4 August 1945  
The Lord Shepherd 6 July 1949  
The Lord Lucas of Chilworth 18 October 1949  
The Earl of Lucan 5 March 1950  
The Lord Archibald 8 June 1951  
Lords in Waiting The Lord Westwood 10 September 1945 – 17 January 1947  
The Lord Pakenham 14 October 1945 – 4 October 1946  
The Lord Henderson 21 October 1945 – 7 June 1948  
The Lord Chorley 11 October 1946 – 31 March 1950  
The Lord Morrison 17 January 1947 – 26 September 1948  
The Lord Lucas of Chilworth 9 July 1948 – 18 October 1949  
The Lord Shepherd 14 October 1948 – 6 July 1949  
The Lord Kershaw 6 July 1949 – 26 October 1951  
The Lord Darwen 18 October 1949 – 26 December 1950  
The Lord Burden 31 March 1950 – 26 October 1951  
The Lord Haden-Guest 13 February 1951 – 26 October 1951  

Major legislation enacted[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jefferys 2014, p. 7.
  2. ^ Reeves, Rachel, and Martin McIvor. "Clement Attlee and the foundations of the British welfare state". Renewal: a Journal of Labour Politics 22#34 (2014): 42+. online Archived 15 December 2018 at the Wayback Machine
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  4. ^ John Bew, Clement Attlee: The Man Who Made Modern Britain (2017).
  5. ^ Andrew Marr, A History of Modern Britain (2007) pp 1–111
  6. ^ Social Security Law in Context By Neville S. Harris, 2000, P.107
  7. ^ Statutory Rules and Orders Other Than Those of a Local, Personal Or Temporary Character (varies Slightly). Volume 1, Part 2 By Great Britain. Laws, statutes, etc · 1949, P.2023-2028
  8. ^ National Assistance Act 1948 Text was copied from this source, which is available under an Open Government Licence v3.0. © Crown copyright.
  9. ^ Stephen J. Lee, Aspects of British Political History 1914–1995 (1996) pp 185–189
  10. ^ Alan Sked and Chris Cook, Post-War Britain: A Political History (4th ed. 1993) pp 24–49
  11. ^ William A. Robson, "Nationalised industries in Britain and France". American Political Science Review 44#2 (1950): 299–322.
  12. ^ Gilbert Walker, "The Transport Act 1947". Economic Journal 58.229 (1948): 11–30. online
  13. ^ Stephen J. Lee, Aspects of British Political History 1914–1995 (1996) pp 261–266, 310–312
  14. ^ William Ashworth, The state in business: 1945 to the mid 1980s (1991).
  15. ^ Martin Chick, Industrial policy in Britain 1945–1951: economic planning, nationalisation and the Labour governments (2002).
  16. ^ Robert A. Brady, Crisis in Britain. Plans and Achievements of the Labour Government (1950) excerpt
  17. ^ Brady, Crisis in Britain pp 77–132
  18. ^ Brady, Crisis in Britain pp 43–77.
  19. ^ Brady, Crisis in Britain pp 352–401
  20. ^ Michael Foot, Aneurin Bevan: v. 2. 1945–1960 (1973) pp 100–215
  21. ^ a b Brady, Crisis in Britain pp 132–138
  22. ^ Brady, Crisis in Britain pp 284–306
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  25. ^ Alasdair M. Blair, "The British iron and steel industry since 1945". Journal of European Economic History 26.3 (1997): 571.
  26. ^ Brady, Crisis in Britain pp 183–235
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Further reading[edit]

  • Bew, John. Clement Attlee: The Man Who Made Modern Britain (2017), comprehensive scholarly biography.
  • Brady, Robert A. Crisis in Britain: Plans and Achievements of the Labour Government. (1950), 730pp, highly detailed coverage of each nationalization project Social Security, health programmes, and other domestic policies. excerpt
  • Butler, David and G. Butler, Twentieth Century British Political Facts 1900–2000.
  • Childs, David. Britain since 1945: A Political History (2012) excerpt and text search
  • French, David. Army, Empire, and Cold War: The British Army and Military Policy, 1945–1971 (Oxford University Press, 2012).
  • Hennessy, Peter. Never Again: Britain, 1945–1951 (1994).
  • Hennessey, Thomas. Britain's Korean War: Cold War diplomacy, strategy and security 1950–1953 (Oxford University Press, 2015).
  • Kynaston, David. Austerity Britain, 1945–1951 (2008) excerpt and text search, social history
  • Morgan, Kenneth O. Labour in Power 1945–1951 (Oxford University Press, 1984)
  • Ovendale, R. ed. The foreign policy of the British Labour governments, 1945–1951 (1984).
  • Pelling, Henry. "The 1945 general election reconsidered". Historical Journal 23#2 (1980): 399–414. in JSTOR
  • Pelling, Henry. Labour Governments, 1945–1951 (1984) 313pp.
  • Reeves, Rachel, and Martin McIvor. "Clement Attlee and the foundations of the British welfare state". Renewal: a Journal of Labour Politics 22#3/4 (2014): 42+. online Archived 15 December 2018 at the Wayback Machine
  • Sked, Alan, and Chris Cook. Post-War Britain: A Political History (1979)
  • Tomlinson, Jim. Democratic Socialism and Economic Policy: The Attlee Years, 1945–1951 (2002) Excerpt and text search
  • Williamson, Adrian. "The Bullock Report on Industrial Democracy and the Post-War Consensus." Contemporary British History 30#1 (2016): 119–149.
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Succeeded by