First Wilson ministry
|First Wilson Ministry|
|81st cabinet of the United Kingdom|
|1964 − 1970|
|Date formed||16 October 1964|
|Date dissolved||19 June 1970|
|People and organisations|
|Head of government||Harold Wilson|
|Head of state||Queen Elizabeth II|
|Member party||Labour Party|
|Status in legislature||Majority|
|Opposition party||Conservative Party|
|Opposition leader||Sir Alec Douglas-Home
(until 28 July 1965)
(from 28 July 1965)
|Election(s)||1964 general election
1966 general election
|Outgoing election||1970 general election|
Harold Wilson became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on 16 October 1964, and formed the First Wilson Ministry which held office between 1964 and 1970. For Wilson's second ministry, see Labour Government 1974–79.
The Labour Party won the 1964 general election by a majority of four seats. The Profumo affair had seriously damaged the previous Conservative government, meaning Alec Douglas-Home's Premiership lasted only 363 days. Wilson's tiny majority led to impotency during this Parliament, and in 1966 another election was called, leading to a majority of 96 and the continuation of the Wilson government.
A number of liberalising social reforms were passed through parliament during Wilson's first period in government. These included the near abolition of capital punishment, decriminalisation of sex between men in private, liberalisation of abortion law and the abolition of theatre censorship. The Divorce Reform Act 1969 was passed by Parliament (and came into effect in 1971). Such reforms were mostly via private member's bills on 'free votes' in line with established convention, but the large Labour majority after 1966 was undoubtedly more open to such changes than previous parliaments had been.
Wilson came culturally from a provincial non-conformist background, and he showed no particular enthusiasm for much of this agenda (which some linked to the "permissive society"), but the reforming climate was especially encouraged by Roy Jenkins during his period at the Home Office. The franchise was also extended with the reduction of the voting age from twenty-one to eighteen in 1969.
Wilson's 1966–70 term witnessed growing public concern over the level of immigration to the United Kingdom. The issue was dramatised at the political level by the famous "Rivers of Blood speech" by the Conservative politician Enoch Powell, warning against the dangers of immigration, which led to Powell's dismissal from the Shadow Cabinet. Wilson's government adopted a two-track approach. While condemning racial discrimination (and adopting legislation to make it a legal offence), Wilson's Home Secretary James Callaghan introduced significant new restrictions on the right of immigration to the United Kingdom.
Education held special significance for a socialist of Wilson's generation, in view of its role in both opening up opportunities for children from working-class backgrounds and enabling Britain to seize the potential benefits of scientific advances. Under the first Wilson government, for the first time in British history, more money was allocated to education than to defence. Wilson continued the rapid creation of new universities, in line with the recommendations of the Robbins Report, a bipartisan policy already in train when Labour took power. The economic difficulties of the period deprived the tertiary system of the resources it needed. Nevertheless, university expansion remained a core policy. One notable effect was the first entry of women into university education in significant numbers. More broadly, higher education overall was significantly expanded, with a distinct bias towards the non-university sector. During Wilson’s time in office from 1964 to 1970, some 30 polytechnics were set up to provide vocationally-oriented courses that were not fully provided by universities. In addition, student participation rates were increased from 5% to 10%. Within a year of taking office, the government awarded teachers a 13% pay increase, and also tripled spending on a large publicity campaign to persuade married teachers to return to the schools. Expenditure on school buildings was also increased, together with the number of teachers in training.
Wilson also deserves credit for grasping the concept of an Open University, to give adults who had missed out on higher education a second chance through part-time study and distance learning. His political commitment included assigning implementation responsibility to Baroness Lee, the widow of Aneurin Bevan, the charismatic leader of Labour's left wing whom Wilson had joined in resigning from the Attlee cabinet. The Open University worked through summer schools, postal tuition and television programmes. By 1981, 45,000 students had received degrees through the Open University. Money was also channelled into local-authority run colleges of education.
Campaigns were also launched by the government to encourage people to take up means-tested benefits to which they were entitled to. For instance, a publicity campaign launched by the government increased the fraction of children eligible to get free school meals. Early in 1968, the standard charge for welfare milk was increased to 6d but, in addition to remission for low income, the new charge was waived automatically “for children in excess of two in any family with three or more children under five years old.” At the end of 1968, about 200,000 young children in England and Wales were receiving milk automatically free under this arrangement.”
Wilson's record on secondary education is, by contrast, highly controversial. A fuller description is in the article Education in England. Two factors played a role. Following the Education Act 1944 there was disaffection with the tripartite system of academically oriented Grammar schools for a small proportion of "gifted" children, and Technical and Secondary Modern schools for the majority of children. Pressure grew for the abolition of the selective principle underlying the 11-plus, and replacement with Comprehensive schools which would serve the full range of children (see the article Debates on the grammar school). Comprehensive education became Labour Party policy. From 1966 to 1970, the proportion of children in comprehensive schools increased from about 10% to over 30%. There was also a move in primary schools towards "child-centred" or individual learning, in keeping with the recommendations of the 1967 Plowden Report on improving the education system. Polytechnics were established in 1965 through the amalgamation of existing institutions such as colleges of technology, art, and commerce. A new external examination, designed for children of middling intellectual ability and leading to a Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE), was also introduced that same year. Advanced level courses in further education were also expanded by the government much faster than under the previous Conservative government. In addition, the Education (School Milk) Act of March 1970 "extended the provision of free school milk to junior pupils in middle schools.”
Labour pressed local authorities to convert grammar schools into comprehensives. Conversion continued on a large scale during the subsequent Conservative Heath administration, although the Secretary of State, Margaret Thatcher, ended the compulsion of local governments to convert.
A major controversy that arose during Wilson's first government was the decision that the government could not fulfill its long-held promise to raise the school leaving age to 16, because of the investment required in infrastructure, such as extra classrooms and teachers. Baroness Lee considered resigning in protest, but narrowly decided against this in the interests of party unity. It was left to Thatcher to carry out the change, during the Heath government.
Attempts were also made to improve the provision of nursery education. In 1960, as a means of saving money, the Conservative government issued a circular which forbade the expansion of nursery education. This restriction was slightly relaxed just before the July 1964 election, when authorities were allowed to provide places "where this would enable married women to return to teaching." In 1965, the Labour government provided a further relaxation which allowed authorities to expand "so long as they provided some extra places for teachers to whom priority was to be given." Nevertheless, the number of children under five in maintained nursery, primary, and special schools increased only slightly, from 222,000 in 1965 to 239,000 in 1969.
In 1967, Wilson's government decided to spend £16 million, mainly in "Educational Priority Areas", over the next two years. Over a two-year period, £16 million was allocated by the government for construction of schools in EPAs, while teachers in 572 primary schools "of exceptional difficulty" were selected for additional increments. After negotiations with teachers' unions, £400,000 of this money was set aide to pay teachers an additional £75 per annum for working in "schools of exceptional difficulty", of which 570 schools were designated. In April 1966, the government authorised school building projects in 57 authorities in England and Wales. It also sponsored an action research project, an experiment in five of the EPAs to try to devise the most effective ways of involving communities, according to Brian Lapping,
"in the work of their schools, compensating the children for the deprivation of their background, seeing whether, in one area pre-school play groups, in another intensive language tuition, in another emphasis on home-school relations, would be most effective."
Overall, public expenditure on education rose as a proportion of GNP from 4.8% in 1964 to 5.9% in 1968, and the number of teachers in training increased by more than a third between 1964 and 1967. The percentage of students staying on at school after the age of sixteen increased similarly, and the student population increased by over 10% each year. Pupil-teacher ratios were also steadily reduced. As a result of the first Wilson government's educational policies, opportunities for working-class children were improved, while overall access to education in 1970 was broader than in 1964. As summarised by Brian Lapping:
- The years 1964–70 were largely taken up with creating extra places in universities, polytechnics, technical colleges, colleges of education: preparing for the day when a new Act would make it the right of a student, on leaving school, to have a place in an institution of further education.
Housing was a major policy area under the first Wilson government. During Wilson's time in office from 1964 to 1970, more new houses were built than in the last six years of the previous Conservative government. Within a year of the First Wilson Government assuming office, the amount of money available to local authorities at special favourable rates of interest was doubled from £50,000 to £100,000. The proportion of council housing rose from 42% to 50% of the total, while the number of council homes built increased steadily, from 119,000 in 1964 to 133,000 in 1965 and to 142,000 in 1966, with hundreds of blocks of multi-storey flats (mostly built in the cities and larger towns) being among these. A number of new towns were created during the 1960s for inner city overspill, namely Telford in Shropshire (which was mostly populated by former residents of Birmingham and Wolverhampton) and Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire (for the London overspill population). Several existing towns began to expand to accommodate inner city overspill, a notable example being families from Liverpool and Manchester relocating to the expanded town of Warrington, which was situated halfway between the two cities. Many families from Birmingham also moved several miles to the south of the city to the expanding Worcestershire town of Redditch.
Allowing for demolitions, 1.3 million new homes were built between 1965 and 1970, To encourage home ownership, the government introduced the Option Mortgage Scheme (1968), which made low-income housebuyers eligible for subsidies (equivalent to tax relief on mortgage interest payments). This scheme had the effect of reducing housing costs for buyers on low incomes and enabling more people to become owner occupiers. In addition, house owners were exempted from capital gains tax. Together with the Option Mortgage Scheme, this measure stimulated the private housing market. To improve conditions for homeless people, a joint circular of the Ministry of Health, Home Office, and Ministry of Local Government of 1966 recommended that families “ought not to be split at reception centres, and that more family privacy was desirable.” According to one study, the “great majority” of local authorities incorporated these suggestions into their policies.”
The government also accepted most of the recommendations of the 1961 Parker Morris Report for significantly improved standards of space and amenities new local authority dwellings. The first Wilson government made Parker Morris recommendations mandatory for public sector housing in new towns in 1967 and for local authorities in 1969. By 1967, almost 85% of council dwellings were being built to the standards laid out by the 1961 Parker Morris Report, and from January 1969 Parker Morris space and heating standards became mandatory. in public housing design. In 1965, a national framework of uniform building regulations was introduced.
Significant emphasis was also placed on town planning, with new conservation areas introduced and a new generation of new towns built, notably Milton Keynes. The New Towns Acts of 1965 and 1968 together gave the government the authority (through its ministries) to designate any area of land as a site for a New Town. The government also combined its push for the construction of more new housing with encouragement and subsidisation of the renovation of old houses (as an alternative to their destruction and replacement). The Housing Improvement Act 1969, for example, made it easier to turn old houses into new homes by encouraging rehabilitation and modernisation through increased grants to property owners. The Act sought to place the economics of housing improvement in a much better relationship to those of redevelopment. Under the Act, local authorities were provided with powers to designate "improvement areas" and to pursue a policy of area-wide improvement. An area could be declared an improvement area if 50% or more of the dwellings within its bounds lacked at least one of the following standard amenities, which included hot and cold running water, an inside toilet, a sink, a wash basin, and a fixed bath or shower. Local authorities in the area could encourage householders in the area to improve their dwellings with the aid of grants. The legislation also introduced major financial changes, including an increase in the normal total standard grant from £155 to £200, an increase from £400 to £1000 in the maximum improvement grant that might be given at the discretion of the local authority, and a new Exchequer grant to local authorities of 50% of the expense for environmental improvement on costs of up to £100 per dwelling in newly designated improvement areas. The legislation introduced special grants for installing amenities in houses in multi-occupation and government grants towards environmental improvement up to an expenditure of £100 per dwelling, while approved works of repair and replacement became eligible for grant aid for the first time ever. Altogether, between 1965 and 1970, over 2 million homes had been constructed (almost half of which were council properties), more than in any other five-year period since 1918.
The Protection from Eviction Act 1964 outlawed the eviction of tenants without a court order, and according to Colin Crouch and Martin Wolf, did much "to stem the rising tide of homelessness," especially in London. The Rent Act 1965 extended security of tenure, introduced registration of rents, and protection from eviction for private tenants, making illegal the harassment of tenants. This legislation was attributed to fall in number of homeless families taken into welfare accommodation each year in the LCC area, from 2,000 in 1962–64 to 1,300 in 1965 and 1,500 in 1966. The Leasehold Reform Act 1967 was passed in order to enable holders of long leases to purchase the freehold of their homes. This legislation provided about one million leaseholders with the right to purchase the freehold of their homes. Controls were introduced over increases in the rents of council accommodation, a new Rent Act 1965 froze the rent for most unfurnished accommodation in the private sector while providing tenants with greater security of tenure and protection against harassment, and a system was introduced whereby independent arbitrators had the power to fix fair rents. In addition, the First Wilson government encouraged the introduction of discretionary local authority rent rebates to assist with housing costs, and also initiated the possibility of paying rates by instalments. In November 1969, legislation was passed by the government limiting rent rises following anti-eviction protests.
Generous new subsides were introduced by the government to encourage authorities to construct many more houses and to build them to Parker Morris standards. In 1967, the government issued a circular which urged authorities to adopt and publicise rent rebate schemes. As a result of this circular, the number of authorities adopting such schemes rose from 40% before the circular to 53% by March 1968. About 70% of tenants were covered, though not necessarily in receipt of rebates:
"... 495 authorities operated rent rebate schemes, and the £9.5 million total rebate went to over a quarter of a million tenants, representing nearly 12 per cent of the total housing stock. The average rebate, 13s 9d, amounted to one third of the average rent."
Legislation was introduced which regulated tenancies for properties with a rateable value of up to £200 per year (£400 in London), which meant that tenants were not only to be protected from intimidation, but that evictions would now require court orders. It also restructured the housing subsidy system such that the borrowing charges of local authorities of individual local authorities would be pegged to 4% interest. The Rating Act 1966 introduced the rating of empty properties and provided for the payment of rates in instalments. The Local Government Act 1966 introduced a "domestic" element in the new Rate Support Grant, by providing relief to domestic ratepayers on a rising scale, so that as local expenditure rose, government grant was geared to outpace it. As noted by one historian,
"The amount of grant in the domestic element would be calculated as sufficient to subsidise domestic ratepayers to the extent of a fivepenny rate in the first year, tenpence in the second, and so on."
The Housing (Slum Clearance Compensation) Act 1965 continued a provision for home owners of unfit dwellings purchased between 1939 and 1955 to be compensated at market values. The Building Control Act 1966 introduced building licensing to give priority to housing construction. Under the Supplementary Benefit Act 1966, an owner occupier on benefits was entitled to an allowance for repairs, insurance, rates, and "reasonable" interest charges on a mortgage. A Land Commission was also established to purchase land for building and therefore prevent profiteering in land values, although it only had limited success. The aim of the Land Commission was to purchase land for public goods such as housing or shopping redevelopment (compulsorily, if the need arose), and investigated the planning needs of a particular area in conjunction with the Ministry of Housing and some planning authorities to see if any land in any particular area would be needed for such developmental schemes. Although the Land Commission purchased substantial quantities of land, it did not become the dominant influence in the land market that the government had hoped for.
The Housing Subsidies Act 1967 fixed interest rates at 4% for councils borrowing to build homes. It also provided financial assistance to local authorities for conversions and improvements, while also reforming the standard of fitness for human habitation. The 1967 Act increased subsides on new houses to such an extent that it became the largest individual source of subsidy after a previous Housing Subsidy Act 1946. For a period, as part of the prices and incomes standstill introduced by the government, local authorities were not permitted to raise rents. Thereafter, a limit was set on the extent of increases that were permitted.
The Town and Country Planning Act 1968 provided more local autonomy in town planning. This piece of legislation aimed for greater flexibility and speed in the planning of land use, and made public participation a statutory requirement in the preparation of development plans. The Act also introduced a new system of process planning under which the spatial distribution of social and economic trends superseded physical standards as the principal concern of planners. According to Maureen Rhoden, this effectively meant that the development control system operated by local authorities 'policed' new housing demand. This allowed for new development on infill sites or on the edge of larger towns and villages, "but preventing development in the open countryside and in designated areas such as green belts and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty." In addition, opportunities for public participation in the planning process were also increased by the Act, partly in response to opposition to some features of urban housing and planning policies. By September 1970, general improvement areas covering 23,254 dwellings had been declared, with work having been completed on 683 dwellings. In addition, the Labour government went further than previous administrations in aiming to safeguard the housing programme from wider economic problems.
Social Services and welfare
Increased funds were allocated to social services during the first Wilson government's time in office. Between 1963 and 1968, spending on housing increased by 9.6%, social security by 6.6%, health by 6%, and education by 6.9%, while from 1964 to 1967 social spending increased by 45%. In terms of the social wage, by 1968, spending on health had gone up by 47%, education by 47%, public sector housing by 63%, and the social security budget by 58%. During the six years of the first Wilson government, spending on social services rose much faster than real personal incomes, and from 1964 to 1969, spending on social services rose from 14.6% to 17.6% of GNP, an increase of nearly 20%. In the years from 1964/65 to 1967/68, real public expenditure rose by 3.8%, 5.9%, 5.7%, and 13.1%, respectively. Altogether, from 1964 to 1970, spending on the social services rose from 16% to 23% of national wealth between 1964 and 1970. As noted by the historian Richard Whiting, spending on social services under Wilson rose faster than the growth in GNP, by 65% (excluding housing) as against 37% for GNP, "a substantially better record than that achieved by the preceding Conservative governments."
In terms of social security, the welfare state was significantly expanded through substantial increases in national insurance benefits (which rose in real terms by 20% from 1964 to 1970) and the creation of new social welfare benefits. A variety of measures was introduced under Wilson which improved the living standards of many people with low incomes.
Short-term unemployment benefits were increased, while the National Assistance Board was merged with the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance to become the new Department of Social Security, which replaced national assistance with supplementary benefit, improved benefit scale rates, and provided a statutory right to benefit for the out-of-work needy. Although people were kept above a new unofficial poverty line, however, many thousands lived only just above it.
The government also succeeded in persuading people to draw assistance to which they were entitled to but hadn't claimed before. The number of elderly Britons receiving home helps rose by over 15% from 1964 to 1969, while nearly three times as many meals on wheels were served in 1968 as in 1964. In 1968, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Security were amalgamated into the Department of Health and Social Security, the purpose of which was to coordinate benefits in cash with benefits in kind since "the services needed to deal with social insecurity are not cash benefits only, but health and welfare as well." In 1970, a bill was passed that introduced a new benefit for handicapped children and their families called the Attendance Allowance, although this was not enacted until the following year by the Heath Administration.
The new Supplementary Benefit scheme included a fixed basic weekly rate that those with an income below this level would now have a right to claim, while extra payments were made available on a discretionary basis for additional needs. In 1966, the period for which flat rate unemployment benefit was payable was extended to twelve months, while the earnings limit for pensioners was extended. A long term addition of 9 shillings (which was subsequently increased to 10 shillings) a week was provided for the allowances of all pensioners and for the long term sick, while the real value of most existing benefits was increased, (such as family allowances, which were substantially raised in 1967 and 1968) with benefits rising at roughly the same rate as salaries over the course of the first Wilson government, while family allowances were significantly increased. By 1969, family allowances were worth 72% more in real terms to a low income family with three children than in 1964. The single pension was raised by 12s 6d in March 1965, by 10s in 1967 and by a further 10s in 1969. From April 1964 to April 1970, family allowances for four children increased as a percentage of male manual workers aged 21 and above from 8% to 11.3%. In addition, the First Wilson Government kept the old age pension rising roughly as fast as average earnings during its time in office.
From 1966 to 1968, various reforms were carried out by the government to improve social security benefits, and which improved the real standards of insurance and assistance provision for low earners. The purchasing power of family allowances were improved, which as a percentage of the gross earnings of an average manual worker with five children rising from 9.5% to 17.% between 1966 and 1968, while improvements were made in additional payments for children via social insurance, with adults receiving a more modest improvement in flat rate payments. In addition, the real level of income guaranteed through assistance was enhanced, with rates increased in the autumn of 1966, 1967, and 1968. Taking into account averages for manual workers, and comparing the last quarter of 1968 with the first quarter of 1966, basic minimum benefits went up in real terms during that period by 4% for a family with 2 children, 18% for a family with 3 children, and 47% for a family with 5 children, while the total benefit went up by 50% for a family with 2 children, by 45% for a family with 3 children, and by 36% for a family with 5 children. According to one study, the doubling of family allowances (in money terms) at the end of 1968 “was sufficient to remove from initial poverty more than half the families (working and non-working) found to be poor at the end of 1966 by the poverty standard then applied.”
Under the Social Security Act 1966, newly unemployed individuals were no longer denied assistance during their first month of unemployment, while men who had had their Unemployment Benefit disallowed for six weeks (on the grounds that they had been at fault for losing their job) were no longer subjected to a harsh rule applied by the National Assistance confining their payments to below "benefit rate." Instead, a policy was adopted of paying these individuals their full entitlement less 15 shillings. The Act also introduced a long term addition of 9 shillings for all pensioners receiving supplementary benefit and for others (with the exception of those required register for employment) receiving supplementary benefits for two years. In 1967, the earnings limits for retirement pensioners were raised, while other changes were made in the administration of the earnings rule. From Autumn 1966 onwards, part of a widowed mother’s pension was not counted as income when the level of income was determined. In 1966-67 the Ministry of Social Security allowed elderly persons to receive supplementary pensions from the same book as retirement pensions, which led to a marked rise in the rate of applications for supplementary pensions. In 1968, the universal family allowance was raised for the first time in a decade. This measure was considered to be redistributive to some degree,
"from richer to poorer and from mainly male taxpayers to mothers who received family allowances, a tentative move towards what Roy Jenkins called 'civilised selectivity'".
The National Insurance Act 1966, which introduced supplementary earnings-related benefits for short-term sickness and unemployment, had far-reaching distributional consequences by "guaranteeing that insurance benefits rose at the same rate as wages in the late 1960s." Trade unions were supportive of the advances made in social protection by the Wilson government, which had a considerable impact on the living standards of the lowest quintile of the population. A statement by the TUC argued that the unions' acquiescence to the government's incomes policy was justified given that "the government had deliberately refrained from attacking the social services."
The introduction of earnings-related unemployment and sickness benefits significantly reduced inequalities between those in work and those who were unemployed. In 1964, the net income received by the average wage earner, when on unemployment or sickness benefit, was only 45% of what he received at work, whereas by 1968 the figure had increased to 75%. The earnings-related supplement for unemployment benefits was made available to those who had earned at least £450 in the previous financial year. The supplement was paid after a twelve-day waiting period, and the rate was one-third the amount by which the average weekly earnings (up to £30) exceeded £9. The earnings-related supplement was based on the assertion that a person's commitments for mortgages, rents, and hire purchase agreements were related to their normal earnings and could not be adjusted quickly when experiencing a loss of normal income. As a result of this supplement, the total benefit of a married man with two children went up by 52%, and that of a single man by 117.% The duration was limited to 26 weeks, while the total benefit was restricted to 85% of average weekly earnings in the preceding financial year. From 1965 to 1970, including Earnings Related Supplement, unemployment or sickness benefits as a percentage of net income at average earnings rose from 27% to 53.3% for a single person, 41.2% to 65.2% for a married couple, and from 49.3% to 72.7% for a married couple with two children. According to one study, the introduction of earnings-related unemployment benefits increased the unemployment income “of a typical married man with two children from 40 percent to 60 percent of average employment income.”
Personal social services were integrated, expenditure increased and their responsibilities broadened following the enactment of the Children and Young Persons' Act 1969 and the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970. The Children and Young Persons Act 1969 reformed the juvenile court system and extended local authority duties to provide community homes for juvenile offenders. The legislation provided that "remand homes," "approved schools," and local authority and voluntary children's homes became part of a comprehensive system of community homes for all children in care. This provided that children who got into trouble with the police should more certainly and quickly than ever before receive special educational assistance, social work help or any other form of assistance (financial or otherwise) that the community could provide. Under the Health Services and Public Health Act 1968, largely as a result of their insistence, local authorities were granted powers to "promote the welfare" of elderly people in order to allow them greater flexibility in the provision of services. Health and welfare services for the elderly were improved, with about 15,000 new places provided in homes for the elderly between 1965 and 1968. From 1964 to 1966, the number of home helps rose from 28,237 to 30,244. Efforts were also made to improve provisions for mentally handicapped adults and children. From 1965 up until the end of 1966, the number of places available in adult training centres rose from 15,000 to 19,000, while for mentally handicapped children there were over 20,000 places in junior training centres by 1966, compared with less than 5,000 in 1960. In addition, spending of local authorities on the mentally ill doubled from £10 million in 1963/64 to £20 million in 1967/68.
Various measures were introduced to improve socio-economic conditions in deprived urban areas.Section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966 enabled local authorities to claim grants to recruit additional staff to meet special needs of Commonwealth immigrants. According to Brian Lapping, this was the first step ever taken towards directing help to areas with special needs, "the reversal of the former position under which ministers had passed the burden of social help measures in housing, education and health to local authorities without passing them any money."
The first Wilson government made assistance to deprived urban communities a specific policy of national government in 1969 with the passage of the Local Government Grants (Social Need) Act, which empowered the Home Secretary to dispense grants to assist local authorities in providing extra help to areas "of special social need." The Urban Aid Programme was subsequently launched to provide community and family advice centres, centres for the elderly, money for schools and other services, thereby alleviating urban deprivation. In introducing the Urban Aid Programme, the then Home Secretary James Callaghan stated that the goal of the legislation was to
"provide for the care of our citizens who live in the poorest overcrowded parts of our cities and towns. It is intended to arrest ... and reverse the downward spiral which afflicts so many of these areas. There is a deadly quagmire of need and poverty."
Under the Urban Aid Programme, funds were provided for centres for unattached youngsters, family advice centres, community centres, centres for the elderly, and in one case for an experimental scheme for rehabilitating methylated spirit drinkers. Central government paid 75% of the costs of these schemes, which were nominated by local authorities in areas of 'acute social need'. As a result of this legislation, many ideas were put into practice such as language classes for immigrants, daycentres for the elderly or disabled, day nurseries, adventure playgrounds, and holidays for deprived or handicapped children. The schemes therefore proved successful in making extra social provision while encouraging community development. In January 1969, 23 local authorities were awarded a total of £3 million mainly for nursery education but also for children’s homes and day nurseries. The second phase, in July 1969, agreed to finance some 500 projects in 89 authorities to a total of £4.5 million, and while the emphasis again stressed education with teachers; centres, nursery schools and language classes for immigrants, aid was also given through the local authorities to voluntary societies to run adventure playgrounds, play centres, and play groups.
Twelve Community Development Projects (CDPs) were set up in areas with high levels of deprivation to encourage self-help and participation by local residents in order to improve their communication and access to local government, together with improving the provision of local services. In the years that followed, these action-research projects increasingly challenged existing ideas about the causes of inner-city deprivation, arguing that the roots of poverty in such areas could be traced to changes in the political economy of inner-city areas, such as the withdrawal of private capital (as characterised by the decline of manufacturing industries).
The Community Development Projects involved co-operation between specially created local teams of social workers, who were supported by part-timers (such as policemen and youth employment officers). The task given to these groups (who were watched over by their own action research teams) was to ascertain how much real demand t here was for support from the social services in their areas of choice, based on the theory that workers in social services usually failed to communicate what they had to offer or to make themselves available, thereby resulting in many deprived people failing to acquire the services that they so desperately needed.
As noted by Brian Lapping, the Community Development Projects were also designed to test the view that within poor communities local residents could articulate local grievances, get conditions in their areas improved, and provide some kind of political leadership, in a way that the existing political structure had failed to do, "largely because these areas of intense poverty were rarely big enough to be electorally important." In assessing the first Wilson government's efforts to uplift the poorest members of British society via the establishment of the Community Development Projects and the designation of the Educational Priority Areas, Brian Lapping noted that
"The determination expressed in the diverse policies to give this unfortunate group the help it needed was among the most humane and important initiatives of the 1964–70 government."
Various measures were introduced during the First Wilson Government's time in office to improve general working conditions. Improvements were made in conditions for nursing staff following the publication of a report by the NBPI in 1968 on the pay of nurses. This led to the introduction of a far more substantial pay lead for nurses in geriatric and psychiatric hospitals, together with (for the first time) premium rates for weekend and night work. Some progress was also made increasing the pay of NHS manual workers through incentive schemes. Despite these improvements, however, the NHS retained a reputation of being a low-wage employer by the end of the first Wilson government's time in office.
The Workmen's Compensation and Benefit (Amendment) Act of 1965 extended the scope of allowances provided under the Industrial Injuries Fund to an additional 10,000 men, while also rationalising the whole complex of allowances. Under the Shops (Early Closing Days) Act of 1965, shop workers were entitled to an “early closing day” once a week. The Power Press Regulations of 1965 required “a trained person to carry out tests and inspections after every tool change and during the first four hours of every shift,” while the Construction (Working Places) Regulations of 1966 “stipulated statutory arrangements for safety on building sites.” The National Insurance Act 1966 introduced more generous provisions for the assessment of certain types of serious disablement caused by industrial injury. That same year, a Pneumoconiosis, Byssinosis and Miscellaneous Diseases Benefit Scheme was introduced. The Employers' Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 was passed, requiring employers to insure their liability to their employees for personal injury, disease or death sustained in their place of work. The Asbestos Regulations of 1969 sought to protect people in the workplace from exposure to asbestos, while the Employer's Liability (Defective Equipment) Act 1969 introduced that same year made employers liable for injuries caused to employees by defective equipment. In addition, the Agriculture Act of 1967 gave the Agricultural Wages Board the power to fix minimum rates of sick pay for farmworkers.
Efforts were made to increase support for occupational health and improving working conditions in merchant shipping, while Wilson's government also ensured that low-income earners improved their position relative to that of average-income earners during its time in office. One of the principles of the government's prices and incomes policy was that low-paid workers would be given special consideration, and between 1965 and 1969 the earnings of the lowest paid workers increased slightly faster than the average (the increase in inflation in 1969–70 caused by devaluation, however, led to a deterioration in the position of low-paid workers). The Prices and Incomes Board was successful in directing some "above the norm" pay rises to low-paid groups such as local government employees and agricultural workers. However, the large increases in pay given to manual workers in local government in September 1969 (such as street sweepers and dustmen) subsequently set off a spiral of wage demands in industry, which meant that the improvement in the relative position of the local government manual worker was not sustained.
The National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act (1965) established the principle of "payment of industrial injury benefit for prescribed industrial diseases or for personal injury following an accident (e.g., acute blast injury to the ear)." The Redundant Mineworkers Payments Scheme of 1968 was introduced to ensure that redundant mineworkers having to leave the industry at or above the age of 55 “would have their income supplemented for a period so that they could adjust themselves in their new circumstances.” In 1966, extensions and improvements were made in the allowances payable out of the Industrial Injuries Fund to people who had been injured before 5 July 1948 and who were entitled to weekly payments of worker's compensation. In 1968, various steps were taken to reduce the severity with which the "wage-stop" operated, a regressive mechanism which restricted the amount of assistance payable to an unemployed person. For miners, the Coal Industry Act 1965 introduced aid towards severance payments for miners about to be made redundant or for the vocational retraining of staff, while the Coal Industry Act 1967 provided subsidisation of redundancy and early retirement. Under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) (Amendment) Act 1967, men who were diagnosed as having over 50% disablement through pneumoconiosis “were allowed to have their accompanying bronchitis and emphysema treated as part of the disease,” although only 3,000 men “fell into this category.”
A number of measures were introduced under the First Wilson Government to make Britain a more open and humane society. The Race Relations Act 1965 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. A centrally financed network of local officers was provided to smooth inter-racial relations by conciliation, education, and informal pressure, while a National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants was established (under the chairmanship of the Archbishop of Canterbury) to encourage and help finance staff "for local voluntary, good-neighbour type bodies." A further Race Relations Act 1968 was passed, which made discrimination in letting or advertising housing illegal, together with discrimination in hiring and promotion. 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. This body was provided with an annual grant (beginning at £300,000) for social work, propaganda, and education as a means of bringing about good race relations. The Criminal Justice Act 1967 introduced suspended prison sentences and allowed a ten to two majority vote for jury decisions. An Ombudsman (Parliamentary Commissioner) was appointed in 1967 to consider complaints against government departments and to impose remedies, while censorship of plays by the Lord Chamberlain was abolished (1969). In addition, the law on Sunday Observance was relaxed, and a strengthening of legal aid was carried out.
The Criminal Evidence Act 1965 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.” The Justices of the Peace Act placed barristers on the same footing “as solicitors in relation to the qualifications of Justices’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 1965 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. From 1966, a circular from several Whitehall ministries was sent to local authorities across the country urging them to provide permanent caravan sites for gypsies. This was followed by the Caravan Sites Act, introduced by the Liberal MP Eric Lubbock in 1968, which obliged local authorities to carry out the recommendations of the 1966 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. The Civic Amenities Act 1967 was aimed at improving and safeguarding buildings of architectural or historical interest, together with the planting and preservation of trees. A Land Commission set up in 1967 with powers to acquire land and collect a Betterment Levy (which was initially 40% of development value). The Administration of Justice Act 1970 introduced (amongst other measures) a new Family Division of the High Court.
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 1968, the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 (the "shoppers' charter") was enacted by parliament, and a farm and garden chemicals bill also became law that same year. 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 1967, 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". The 1970 Chronically Sick & Disabled Persons Act, regarded as a groundbreaking measure, was the first kind of legislation in the world to recognise and give rights to disabled people, and set down specific provisions to improve access and support for people with disabilities. The government effectively supported the passage of these bills by granting them the necessary parliamentary time. 
Among the more challenging political dilemmas Wilson faced during his two terms in government and his two spells in Opposition before 1964 and between 1970 and 1974 was the issue of British membership of the European Community, the forerunner of the present European Union. An entry attempt had been issued in July 1961 by the Macmillan government, and negotiated by Edward Heath as Lord Privy Seal, but was vetoed in 1963 by French President Charles de Gaulle. The Labour Party in Opposition had been divided on the issue, with former party leader Hugh Gaitskell having come out in 1962 in opposition to Britain joining the Community.
After initially hesitating over the issue, Wilson's Government in May 1967 lodged the UK's second application to join the European Community. Like the first, though, it was vetoed by de Gaulle in November that year.
After De Gaulle left office Conservative prime minister Edward Heath negotiated Britain's admission to the EC in 1973. 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 (1970–72) the editor of 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.
American military involvement in the Vietnam War Escalated continuously 1964-68. President Lyndon Johnson brought pressure to bear for at least a token involvement of British military units. Wilson consistently avoided any commitment of British forces, giving as reasons British military commitments to the Malayan Emergency and British co-chairmanship of the 1954 Geneva Conference which agreed the cessation of hostilities and called for internationally supervised elections in Vietnam.
Since 1945 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, moved towards independence under British governments of both parties. Successive UK Governments also became 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 and the TSR2 aircraft).
Part of the price paid by Wilson after talks with President Johnson in June 1967 for US assistance with the UK economy was his agreement to maintain a military presence East of Suez. In July 1967 Defence Secretary Denis Healey announced that Britain would abandon her mainland bases East of Suez by 1977, although airmobile forces would be retained which could if necessary be deployed in the region. Shortly afterward, in January 1968, Wilson announced that the proposed 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 1971.
Wilson held strong pro-Israel views. He was a particular friend of Israeli Premier Golda Meir, though her tenure largely coincided with Wilson's 1970–1974 hiatus. Another associate was West German Chancellor Willy Brandt; all three were members of the Socialist International.
The British "retreat from Empire" had made headway by 1964 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 1953, 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 1963 and the states of Zambia and Malawi were granted independence. Southern Rhodesia, which had been the economic powerhouse of the Federation, was not granted independence, principally because of the régime in power. The country bordered South Africa to the south and its governance was influenced by the apartheid régime, then headed by Hendrik Verwoerd. 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.e., chiefs and indunas – in other words, you needed to qualify for a vote – which many natives did.
Smith's defiant response was a Unilateral Declaration of Independence, timed to coincide with Armistice Day at 11.00 am on 11 November 1965, an attempt to garner support in the UK by reminding people of the contribution of the colony to the war effort (Smith himself had been a Spitfire pilot). Smith was personally vilified in the British media. Wilson's immediate recourse was to the United Nations, and in 1965, the Security Council imposed sanctions, which were to last until official independence in 1979. This involved British warships blockading the port of Beira to try to cause economic collapse in Rhodesia. Wilson was applauded by most nations for taking a firm stand on the issue (and none extended diplomatic recognition to the Smith régime). A number of nations did not join in with sanctions, undermining their efficiency. Certain sections of public opinion started to question their efficacy, and to demand the toppling of the régime by force. 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 1966 and Fearless in 1968. 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. The matter was still unresolved at the time of Wilson's resignation in 1976.
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. He supported the government of General Yakubu Gowon during the Nigerian Civil War of 1967–1970.
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 1968, 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 500,000 per year was never met. The government also failed to meet its 1964 manifesto commitment to tie increases in national insurance benefits to increases in average earnings, although this reform would later be implemented during Wilson's second premiership in 1975.
There was also much controversy over the government's decision to reintroduce Prescription charges in 1968 (after having abolished them in 1964), although the blow of this measure was arguably by softened by the fact that many people were exempted from charges. In 1968, 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 45. Under this rule, young, single, unskilled men who lived in areas of low unemployment would have their supplementary benefits stopped after four weeks. Wilson’s government also failed to maintain the real value of family allowances during its time in office, which (despite being doubled under Wilson) fell by 13% in real terms between 1964 and 1969. In addition, tax allowances were reduced in 1968 to pay in part for increases in family allowances, and despite inflation were not increased again until 1971. Family allowances were increased for the fourth and subsequent children from 50p to 75p per week in October 1966, and then in April 1967 to 75p for the second child and 85p for each subsequent child. 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 1956 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. In 1966, tall flats accounted 25.6% of all approved starts, compared with only 3% in 1954. From 1964 to 1966, the percentage of homes built in England and Wales by local authorities and New Towns in the form of flats in buildings of 5 storeys or more rose from 22.4% to 25.7%, falling to 9.9% in 1970.
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." For Shaw, the housing drive demonstrated "flaws in Labour's centralist brand of social democracy," the assumption that the interests of ordinary people could be safeguarded by public officials without needing to consult them, "a well-intentioned but short-sighted belief that pledges could be honored by spreading resources more thinly; and a 'social engineering' approach to reform in which the calculation of the effects of institutional reform neglected their impact upon the overall quality of people's lives." This approach resulted in people being wrenched from their local communities and transferred to isolating and forbidding environments which often lacked basic social and commercial amenities and which hindered the revival of community networks. 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." As further noted by Shaw, the "new soulless working-class estates" became the breeding grounds of a host of social evils, "as socialists from an older generation like William Morris could have predicted."
A plan to boost economic growth to 4% a year was never met, while development aid was cut severely as a result of austerity measures. A proposed "minimum income guarantee" for widows and pensioners was never implemented, together with Richard Crossman's compulsory national superannuation scheme. 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. A proposed means-tested Family Supplement debated in cabinet and supported by the (then) Chancellor James Callaghan. never came into being, although it was later introduced by the Heath Government under the name “Family Income Supplement.” In June 1969, the government announced plans for introducing two new benefits for the disabled an “attendance allowance” for the very severely disabled, and an “invalidity pension” for people forced to retire early due to illness. Neither benefit, however, came into being during the remainder of the First Wilson Government’s time in office, although the proposed attendance allowance would later be introduced by the Heath Government and the invalidity pension by the Second Wilson Government. In addition, the government's austerity measures led to an unpopular squeeze on consumption in 1968 and 1969.
By 1969, the Labour Party was suffering serious electoral reverses. In May 1970, 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.
List of Ministers
Members of the Cabinet are in bold face.
First Lord of the Treasury
and Minister for the Civil Service
|Harold Wilson||16 October 1964 – 19 June 1970|
|First Secretary of State||George Brown||16 October 1964||Office linked to Department of Economic Affairs until 29 August 1967|
|Michael Stewart||11 August 1966 – 18 March 1968|
|Barbara Castle||6 April 1968||Office linked to Ministry of Employment|
|Lord Chancellor||Lord Gardiner||16 October 1964|
|Lord President of the Council
and Leader of the House of Commons
|Herbert Bowden||16 October 1964|
|Richard Crossman||11 August 1966|
|Fred Peart||18 October 1968|
|Lord Privy Seal||The Earl of Longford||18 October 1964||also Leader of the House of Lords|
|Sir Frank Soskice||23 December 1965|
|The Earl of Longford||6 April 1966||also Leader of the House of Lords|
|Lord Shackleton||16 January 1968||also Leader of the House of Lords|
|Fred Peart||6 April 1968|
|Lord Shackleton||18 October 1968||also Leader of the House of Lords|
|Chancellor of the Exchequer||James Callaghan||16 October 1964|
|Roy Jenkins||30 November 1967|
|Chief Secretary to the Treasury||John Diamond||20 October 1964||Office in Cabinet from 1 November 1968|
|Minister of State, Treasury||Dick Taverne||6 April 1968|
|Bill Rodgers||13 October 1969|
|Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury||Edward Short||18 October 1964|
|John Silkin||4 July 1966|
|Robert Mellish||30 April 1969|
|office vacant||31 May 1970|
|Financial Secretary to the Treasury||Niall MacDermot||21 October 1964|
|Harold Lever||29 August 1967|
|Dick Taverne||13 October 1969|
|Economic Secretary to the Treasury||Anthony Crosland||19 October 1964||de facto Minister of State for Economic Affairs. Office abolished 22 December 1964|
|Secretary of State for Economic Affairs||George Brown||16 October 1964|
|Michael Stewart||11 August 1966|
|Peter Shore||29 August 1967||Office abolished 6 October 1969|
|Minister of State for Economic Affairs||Anthony Crosland||20 October 1964||Nominally Economic Secretary to the Treasury until 22 December 1964|
|Austen Albu||27 January 1965 – 7 January 1967|
|Thomas Urwin||6 April 1968 – 6 October 1969|
|Under-Secretary of State for Economic Affairs||Maurice Foley||21 October 1964 – 6 April 1966|
|Bill Rodgers||21 October 1964 – 7 January 1967|
|Harold Lever||7 January 1967 – 29 August 1967|
|Peter Shore||7 January 1967 – 29 August 1967|
|Alan Williams||29 August 1967 – 6 October 1969|
|Edmund Dell||29 August 1967 – 6 April 1968|
|Lords of the Treasury||George Rogers||21 October 1964 – 11 January 1966|
|George Lawson||21 October 1964 – 1 April 1967|
|Jack McCann||21 October 1964 – 11 April 1966 and 29 July 1967 – 13 October 1969|
|Ifor Davies||21 October 1964 – 6 April 1966|
|Harriet Slater||21 October 1964 – 6 April 1966|
|John Silkin||11 January 1966 – 11 April 1966|
|Alan Fitch||16 April 1966 – 13 October 1969|
|Joseph Harper||16 April 1966 – 19 June 1970|
|William Whitlock||11 April 1966 – 7 July 1966 and 1 April 1967 – 28 July 1967|
|William Howie||16 April 1966 – 1 April 1967|
|Harry Gourlay||7 July 1966 – 1 April 1967|
|Brian O'Malley||1 April 1967 – 13 October 1969|
|Walter Harrison||29 October 1968 – 19 June 1970|
|Neil McBride||13 October 1969 – 19 June 1970|
|Ernest Perry||13 October 1969 – 19 June 1970|
|Ernest Armstrong||13 October 1969 – 19 June 1970|
|Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs||Patrick Gordon Walker||16 October 1964|
|Michael Stewart||22 January 1965|
|George Brown||11 August 1966||Resigned|
|Michael Stewart||16 March 1968||Merged with Commonwealth Office 17 October 1968|
|Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs||Michael Stewart||17 October 1968|
|Minister of State for Foreign Affairs||Lord Caradon||16 October 1964 – 19 June 1970|
|George Thomson||19 June 1964 – 6 April 1966 and 7 January 1967 – 29 August 1967|
|Walter Padley||19 October 1964 – 7 January 1967|
|Lord Chalfont||23 October 1964 – 19 June 1970|
|Eirene White||11 April 1966 – 7 January 1967|
|Frederick Mulley||7 January 1967 – 17 October 1968||Merged with Commonwealth Office 17 October 1968|
|Goronwy Roberts||29 August 1967 – 17 October 1968||Merged with Commonwealth Office 17 October 1968|
|Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs||Frederick Mulley||17 October 1968 – 6 October 1969|
|Goronwy Roberts||17 October 1968 – 13 October 1969|
|The Lord Shepherd||17 October 1968 – 19 June 1970|
|Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs||Lord Walston||20 October 1964|
|Bill Rodgers||7 January 1967|
|Maurice Foley||3 July 1968||Merged with Commonwealth Office 17 October 1968|
|Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs||Maurice Foley||17 October 1968 – 19 June 1970|
|William Whitlock||17 October 1968 – 13 October 1969|
|Evan Luard||13 October 1969 – 19 June 1970|
|Secretary of State for the Home Department||Sir Frank Soskice||18 October 1964|
|Roy Jenkins||23 December 1965|
|James Callaghan||30 November 1967|
|Minister of State for Home Affairs||Alice Bacon||19 October 1964|
|Lord Stonham||29 August 1967|
|Shirley Williams||13 October 1969|
|Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department||Lord Stonham||20 October 1964 – 29 August 1967|
|George Thomas||20 October 1964 – 6 April 1966|
|Maurice Foley||6 April 1966 – 7 January 1967|
|Dick Taverne||6 April 1966 – 6 April 1968|
|David Ennals||7 January 1967 – 1 November 1968|
|Elystan Morgan||6 April 1968 – 19 June 1970|
|Merlyn Rees||1 November 1968 – 19 June 1970|
|Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food||Fred Peart||18 October 1964|
|Cledwyn Hughes||6 April 1968|
|Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food||John Mackie||20 October 1964 – 19 June 1970|
|James Hutchison Hoy||21 October 1964 – 19 June 1970|
|Minister of State for Aviation||Roy Jenkins||18 October 1964|
|Frederick Mulley||23 December 1965|
|John Stonehouse||7 January 1967||Office abolished 15 February 1967|
|Parliamentary Secretary for Aviation||John Stonehouse||20 October 1964|
|Julian Snow||6 April 1966||Office abolished 7 January 1967|
|Secretary of State for the Colonies||Anthony Greenwood||18 October 1964|
|The Earl of Longford||23 December 1965||also Leader of the House of Lords|
|Frederick Lee||6 April 1966||Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs from 1 August 1966. Office abolished 7 January 1967|
|Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies||Eirene White||20 October 1964 – 11 October 1965|
|Lord Taylor||20 October 1964 – 11 April 1966||Also Under-Secretary at Commonwealth Relations|
|Lord Beswick||11 October 1965 – 1 August 1966||Also Under-Secretary at Commonwealth Relations|
|Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations||Arthur Bottomley||18 October 1964||Merged into Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs|
|Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs||Herbert Bowden||11 August 1966|
|George Thomson||29 August 1967||Merged with Foreign Office 17 October 1968|
|Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations||Cledwyn Hughes||19 October 1964 – 6 April 1966||Merged into Minister of State for Commonwealth Affairs|
|Minister of State for Commonwealth Affairs||Judith Hart||6 April 1966 – 26 July 1967|
|George Thomas||7 January 1967 – 6 April 1968|
|The Lord Shepherd||26 July 1967||Merged with Foreign Office 17 October 1968|
|Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations||Lord Taylor||20 October 1964||Also Under-Secretary for the Colonies|
|Lord Beswick||11 October 1965||Also Under-Secretary for the Colonies until 1 August 1966|
|Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs||Lord Beswick||1 August 1966|
|William Whitlock||26 July 1967||Merged with Foreign Office 17 October 1968|
|Secretary of State for Defence||Denis Healey||16 October 1964|
|Minister of State for the Army||Frederick Mulley||19 October 1964||Also Deputy Secretary of State|
|Gerald Reynolds||24 December 1965|
|Under-Secretary of State for the Army||Gerald Reynolds||20 October 1964|
|Merlyn Rees||24 December 1965|
|David Ennals||6 April 1966|
|James Boyden||7 January 1967|
|Ivor Richard||13 October 1969|
|Minister of State for the Navy||Christopher Mayhew||19 October 1964|
|Joseph Mallalieu||19 February 1966||Office abolished 7 January 1967|
|Under-Secretary of State for the Navy||Joseph Mallalieu||21 October 1964|
|Lord Winterbottom||6 April 1966|
|Maurice Foley||7 January 1967|
|David Owen||3 July 1968|
|Minister of State for the Air Force||Lord Shackleton||19 October 1964||Office abolished 7 January 1967|
|Under-Secretary of State for the Air Force||Bruce Millan||20 October 1964|
|Merlyn Rees||16 April 1966|
|Lord Winterbottom||1 November 1968|
|Minister of Defence for Administration||Gerald Reynolds||7 January 1967|
|Roy Hattersley||15 July 1969|
|Minister of Defence for Equipment||Roy Mason||7 January 1967|
|John Morris||16 April 1968|
|Secretary of State for Education and Science||Michael Stewart||18 October 1964|
|Anthony Crosland||22 January 1965|
|Patrick Gordon Walker||29 August 1967|
|Edward Short||6 April 1968|
|Minister of State for Education and Science||Lord Bowden||19 October 1964 – 11 October 1965|
|Reg Prentice||20 October 1964 – 6 April 1966|
|Edward Redhead||11 October 1965 – 7 January 1967|
|Goronwy Roberts||6 April 1966 – 29 August 1967|
|Shirley Williams||7 January 1967 – 13 October 1969|
|Alice Bacon||29 August 1967 – 19 June 1970|
|Gerald Fowler||13 October 1969 – 19 June 1970|
|Minister of State for the Arts||Jennie Lee||17 February 1967 – 19 June 1970|
|Under-Secretary of State for Education||James Boyden||20 October 1964 – 24 February 1965|
|Denis Howell||20 October 1964 – 13 October 1969|
|Jennie Lee||24 February 1965 – 17 February 1967||Arts|
|Joan Lestor||13 October 1969 – 19 June 1970|
|Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity||Barbara Castle||6 April 1968|
|Minister of State for Employment and Productivity||Edmund Dell||13 October 1969|
|Under-Secretary of State for Employment||Ernest Fernyhough||6 April 1968 – 13 October 1969|
|Roy Hattersley||6 April 1968 – 13 October 1969|
|Harold Walker||6 April 1968 – 13 October 1969|
|Minister of Health||Kenneth Robinson||18 October 1964||Office abolished 1 November 1968|
|Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health||Sir Barnett Stross||20 October 1964|
|Charles Loughlin||24 February 1965|
|Julian Snow||7 January 1967|
|Secretary of State for Social Services||Richard Crossman||1 November 1968||Incl. Health|
|Minister of State for Social Services||Stephen Swingler||1 November 1968 – 19 February 1969|
|David Ennals||1 November 1968 – 19 June 1970|
|Lady Serota||25 February 1969 – 19 June 1970|
|Under-Secretary of State for Social Services||Norman Pentland||1 November 1968 – 13 October 1969|
|Charles Loughlin||1 November 1968 – 20 November 1968|
|Julian Snow||1 November 1968 – 13 October 1969|
|Brian O'Malley||13 October 1969 – 19 June 1970|
|John Dunwoody||13 October 1969 – 19 June 1970|
|Minister of Housing and Local Government||Richard Crossman||18 October 1964|
|Anthony Greenwood||11 August 1966||Office not in Cabinet from 6 October 1969|
|Robert Mellish||31 May 1970|
|Minister of State for Housing and Local Government||Frederick Willey||17 February 1967|
|Niall MacDermot||29 August 1967 – 28 September 1968|
|Denis Howell||13 October 1969|
|Minister for Planning and Land||Kenneth Robinson||1 November 1968||Office abolished 6 October 1969|
|Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Housing and Local Government||Robert Mellish||18 October 1964 – 29 August 1967|
|James MacColl||20 October 1964 – 13 October 1969|
|The Lord Kennet||6 April 1966 – 19 June 1970|
|Arthur Skeffington||17 February 1967 – 19 June 1970|
|Reginald Freeson||13 October 1969 – 19 June 1970|
|Richard Marsh||20 October 1964 – 11 October 1965|
|Ernest Thornton||21 October 1964 – 6 April 1966|
|Shirley Williams||6 April 1966 – 7 January 1967|
|Ernest Fernyhough||7 January 1967 – 6 April 1968|
|Roy Hattersley||7 January 1967 – 6 April 1968|
|Minister of Labour||Ray Gunter||18 October 1964||Reorganised as Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity 6 April 1968|
|Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster||Douglas Houghton||18 October 1964|
|George Thomson||6 April 1966||Office not in Cabinet|
|Frederick Lee||7 January 1967|
|George Thomson||6 October 1969||Office in Cabinet|
|Secretary of State for Local Government and Regional Planning||Anthony Crosland||6 October 1969|
|Minister of State for Local Government and Regional Planning||Thomas Urwin||6 October 1969|
|Minister for Land and Natural Resources||Frederick Willey||18 October 1964||Office wound up 17 February 1967|
|Parliamentary Secretary for Land and Natural Resources||Lord Mitchison||October 1964 – 6 April 1966|
|Arthur Skeffington||21 October 1964 – 17 February 1967|
|Minister of Overseas Development||Barbara Castle||18 October 1964|
|Anthony Greenwood||23 December 1965|
|Arthur Bottomley||11 August 1966|
|Reginald Prentice||29 August 1967||Office no longer in Cabinet|
|Judith Hart||6 October 1969|
|Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Overseas Development||Albert Oram||21 October 1964|
|Ben Whitaker||13 October 1969|
|Paymaster General||George Wigg||19 October 1964 – 12 November 1967|
|office vacant||12 November 1967|
|Lord Shackleton||6 April 1968||also Leader of the House of Lords|
|Judith Hart||1 November 1968|
|Harold Lever||6 October 1969|
|Minister of Pensions and National Insurance||Margaret Herbison||18 October 1964||Minister of Social Security from 6 August 1966|
|Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions||Harold Davies||20 October 1964 – 6 August 1966|
|Norman Pentland||21 October 1964 – 6 August 1966|
|Minister without Portfolio||Sir Eric Fletcher||19 October 1964 – 6 April 1966|
|Lord Champion||21 October 1964 – 7 January 1967|
|Douglas Houghton||6 April 1966 – 7 January 1967||In Cabinet|
|Lord Shackleton||7 January 1967 – 16 January 1968|
|Patrick Gordon Walker||7 January 1967 – 21 August 1967|
|George Thomson||17 October 1968 – 6 October 1969|
|Peter Shore||6 October 1969 – 19 June 1970|
|Postmaster-General||Tony Benn||19 October 1964|
|Edward Short||4 July 1966|
|Roy Mason||6 April 1968|
|John Stonehouse||1 July 1968||Post Office became public corporation 1 October 1969|
|Assistant Postmaster-General||Joseph Slater||20 October 1964|
|Minister for Posts and Telecommunications||John Stonehouse||1 October 1969|
|Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Posts and Telecommunications||Joseph Slater||1 October 1969|
|Norman Pentland||13 October 1969|
|Minister of Power||Frederick Lee||18 October 1964|
|Richard Marsh||6 April 1966|
|Ray Gunter||6 April 1968|
|Roy Mason||1 July 1968||Office abolished 6 October 1969|
|Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power||John Morris||21 October 1964|
|Lord Lindgren||10 January 1966|
|Jeremy Bray||6 April 1966|
|Reginald Freeson||7 January 1967 – 6 October 1969|
|Minister of Public Building and Works||Charles Pannell||19 October 1964|
|Reginald Prentice||6 April 1966|
|Robert Mellish||29 August 1967|
|John Silkin||30 April 1969|
|Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Public Building and Works||Jennie Lee||20 October 1964||Arts|
|James Boyden||24 February 1965|
|Lord Winterbottom||7 January 1967|
|Charles Loughlin||20 November 1968|
|Secretary of State for Scotland||Willie Ross||18 October 1964|
|Minister of State for Scotland||George Willis||20 October 1964 – 7 January 1967|
|Dickson Mabon||7 January 1967 – 19 June 1970|
|Lord Hughes||13 October 1969 – 19 June 1970|
|Under-Secretary of State for Scotland||Lord Hughes||21 October 1964 – 13 October 1969|
|Judith Hart||20 October 1964 – 6 April 1966|
|Dickson Mabon||21 October 1964 – 7 January 1967|
|Bruce Millan||6 April 1966 – 19 June 1970|
|Norman Buchan||7 January 1967 – 19 June 1970|
|Minister of Social Security||Margaret Herbison||6 August 1966|
|Judith Hart||26 July 1967||Office abolished 1 November 1968 – thereafter Health & Social Security|
|Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Social Security||Harold Davies||6 August 1966 – 7 January 1967|
|Norman Pentland||6 August 1966 – 1 November 1968|
|Charles Loughlin||7 January 1967 – 1 November 1968|
|Minister of Technology||Frank Cousins||18 October 1964|
|Tony Benn||4 July 1966|
|Minister of State for Technology||John Stonehouse||15 February 1967 – 1 July 1968|
|Joseph Mallalieu||1 July 1968 – 13 October 1969|
|Reg Prentice||6 October 1969 – 10 October 1969|
|Lord Delacourt-Smith||13 October 1969 – 19 June 1970|
|Eric Varley||13 October 1969 – 19 June 1970|
|Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Technology||Julian Snow||19 October 1964 – 6 April 1966|
|Richard Marsh||11 October 1965 – 6 April 1966|
|Peter Shore||6 April 1966 – 7 January 1967|
|Edmund Dell||6 April 1966 – 29 August 1967|
|Jeremy Bray||7 January 1967 – 24 September 1969|
|Gerald Fowler||29 August 1967 – 13 October 1969|
|Alan Williams||6 October 1969 – 19 June 1970|
|Neil Carmichael||13 October 1969 – 19 June 1970|
|Ernest Davies||13 October 1969 – 19 June 1970|
|President of the Board of Trade||Douglas Jay||18 October 1964|
|Anthony Crosland||29 August 1967|
|Roy Mason||6 October 1969|
|Minister of State for Trade||George Darling||20 October 1964 – 6 April 1968|
|Edward Redhead||20 October 1964 – 11 October 1965|
|Roy Mason||20 October 1964 – 7 January 1967|
|Lord Brown||11 October 1965 – 19 June 1970|
|Joseph Mallalieu||7 January 1967 – 1 July 1968|
|Edmund Dell||6 April 1968 – 13 October 1969|
|William Rodgers||1 July 1968 – 13 October 1969|
|Goronwy Roberts||13 October 1969 – 19 June 1970|
|Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade||Lord Rhodes||20 October 1964|
|Lord Walston||7 January 1967|
|Gwyneth Dunwoody||29 August 1967|
|Minister of Transport||Thomas Fraser||18 October 1964|
|Barbara Castle||23 December 1965|
|Richard Marsh||6 April 1968|
|Frederick Mulley||6 October 1969||Office no longer in Cabinet|
|Minister of State for Transport||Stephen Swingler||29 August 1967||Office vacant 1 November 1968|
|Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport||Lord Lindgren||20 October 1964 – 10 January 1966|
|Stephen Swingler||20 October 1964 – 29 August 1967|
|John Morris||10 January 1966 – 6 April 1968|
|Neil George Carmichael||29 August 1967 – 13 October 1969|
|Robert Brown||6 April 1968 – 19 June 1970|
|Albert Murray||13 October 1969 – 19 June 1970|
|Secretary of State for Wales||James Griffiths||18 October 1964|
|Cledwyn Hughes||6 April 1966|
|George Thomas||6 April 1968|
|Minister of State for Wales||Goronwy Roberts||20 October 1964|
|George Thomas||6 April 1966|
|Eirene White||7 January 1967|
|Under-Secretary of State for Wales||Harold Finch||21 October 1964|
|Ifor Davies||6 April 1966|
|Edward Rowlands||13 October 1969|
|Attorney General||Sir Elwyn Jones||18 October 1964|
|Solicitor General||Sir Dingle Foot||18 October 1964|
|Sir Arthur Irvine||24 August 1967|
|Lord Advocate||Gordon Stott||20 October 1964||Not an MP|
|Henry Wilson||26 October 1967||Not an MP|
|Solicitor General for Scotland||James Leechman||20 October 1964||Not an MP|
|Henry Wilson||11 October 1965||Not an MP|
|Ewan George Francis Stewart||26 October 1967||Not an MP|
|Treasurer of the Household||Sydney Irving||21 October 1964|
|John Silkin||11 April 1966|
|Charles Grey||7 July 1966|
|Charles Richard Morris||13 October 1969|
|Comptroller of the Household||Charles Grey||21 October 1964|
|William Whitlock||7 July 1966|
|William Howie||1 April 1967|
|Ioan Evans||6 February 1968|
|Vice-Chamberlain of the Household||William Whitlock||21 October 1964|
|Jack McCann||11 April 1966|
|Charles Richard Morris||29 July 1967|
|Alan Fitch||13 October 1969|
|Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms||The Lord Shepherd||21 October 1964|
|Lord Beswick||29 July 1967|
|Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard||Lord Bowles||28 December 1964|
|Lords in Waiting||Lord Hobson||21 October 1964 – 17 February 1966|
|Lord Beswick||28 December 1964 – 11 October 1965|
|Lord Sorensen||28 December 1964 – 20 April 1968|
|Lady Phillips||10 December 1965 – 19 June 1970|
|Lord Hilton of Upton||6 April 1966 – 19 June 1970|
|Lady Serota||23 April 1968 – 25 February 1969|
|Lady Llewelyn-Davies||13 March 1969 – 19 June 1970|
- Wilson's 790-page "The Labour Government 1964–70: a Personal Record" contains no index entry for abortion, or for David Steel who sponsored abortion law reform, no index entry for homosexuality or for Leo Abse who sponsored reform in this area, no entry for divorce, or for censorship. 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.
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|List of British ministries