Liberal Government 1905–15
The Liberal government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland that began in 1905 and ended in 1915 consisted of two ministries: the Campbell-Bannerman Ministry, led by Henry Campbell-Bannerman, and then the First Asquith Ministry, led by H.H. Asquith.
With the fall of Arthur Balfour's Conservative government in the United Kingdom in December 1905, the Liberals under Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman were called in to form a government. In the subsequent election, the Liberals won an enormous majority. Campbell-Bannerman was succeeded by H. H. Asquith in 1908.
The Liberal government, supported by 29 Labour Party MPs, crafted the People's Budget and introduced a great deal of social legislation, such as old age pensions and unemployment insurance for a significant part of the working population. For many working people, for whom in old age the threat of the workhouse was very real, these represented a very significant change. Equally groundbreaking was the Parliament Act 1911 which:
- Removed the law-making veto from the House of Lords thus rendering it constitutionally most expedient to run any future government from the House of Commons
- Gave planned budgetary free rein to the House of Commons (all Money Bills) and
- Helped to shape the later Salisbury Convention under which the House of Lords does not by convention oppose manifesto commitments
Many of the members of Asquith's cabinet, however, opposed the social measures promulgated by leading figures such as Winston Churchill and David Lloyd-George; arguably a reflection of the extent to which many Liberals still adhered to the Party's Gladstonian, classical liberal tradition in spite of the growth of the "New Liberalism". Morley was opposed to both old-age pensions and the provisions of the Trade Boards Act of 1909, while Runciman was against the eight-hour day for miners and compensation for workers. Burns, Bryce, Loreburn, and W.S. Robson were opposed to land reform, insurance, and the feeding of schoolchildren, while several cabinet members (such as Reginald McKenna) were critical of Lloyd George's progressive "People's Budget.", Nevertheless, according to Neil Smith, the Edwardian Liberal Cabinets “had a majority in favour of social progress and moderate social reform.”
Although the government lost a great deal of support by the two general elections of 1910, they managed to hold on by dint of support from the Irish Nationalists. After early mismanagement during the First World War, particularly the failure of the Dardanelles Campaign, Asquith was forced to bring the Unionists into the government in a coalition.
- Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman — Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury and Leader of the House of Commons
- The Lord Loreburn — Lord Chancellor
- The Earl of Crewe — Lord President of the Council
- The Marquess of Ripon — Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords
- H. H. Asquith — Chancellor of the Exchequer
- Herbert Gladstone — Secretary of State for the Home Department
- Sir Edward Grey, Bt — Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
- The Earl of Elgin — Secretary of State for the Colonies
- Richard Haldane — Secretary of State for War
- John Morley — Secretary of State for India
- The Lord Tweedmouth — First Lord of the Admiralty
- David Lloyd George — President of the Board of Trade
- Sir Henry Fowler — Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
- Sir John Sinclair — Secretary for Scotland
- James Bryce — Chief Secretary for Ireland
- John Burns — President of the Local Government Board
- The Earl Carrington — President of the Board of Agriculture
- Augustine Birrell — President of the Board of Education
- Sydney Buxton — Postmaster-General
- January 1907 — Augustine Birrell succeeds Bryce as Irish Secretary. Reginald McKenna succeeds Birrell at the Board of Education.
- March 1907 — Lewis Harcourt, the First Commissioner of Works, enters the Cabinet.
- September 1908 – Lord Wolverhampton succeeds Lord Tweedmouth as Lord President. Lord FitzMaurice succeeds Lord Wolverhampton as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
- October 1908 – Lord Crewe succeeds Lord Ripon as Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords, while remaining also Colonial Secretary.
- June 1909 – Herbert Samuel succeeds Lord FitzMaurice at the Duchy of Lancaster.
- February 1910 – Winston Churchill succeeds Herbert Gladstone as Home Secretary. Sydney Buxton succeeds Churchill at the Board of Trade. Herbert Samuel succeeds Buxton as Postmaster-General. Joseph Pease succeeds Samuel as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
- June 1910 – Lord Beauchamp succeeds Lord Wolverhampton as Lord President.
- November 1910 – Lord Beauchamp succeeds Lewis Vernon Harcourt as First Commissioner of Public Works. Lord Morley succeeds Beauchamp as Lord President. Lord Crewe succeeds Morley as India Secretary, remaining also Lord Privy Seal. Lewis Harcourt succeeds Crewe as Colonial Secretary.
- October 1911 – Winston Churchill and Reginald McKenna switch offices, Churchill taking the Admiralty and McKenna the Home Office. Lord Carrington succeeds Lord Crewe as Lord Privy Seal. Crewe remains India Secretary. Walter Runciman succeeds Lord Carrington at the Board of Agriculture. Joseph Albert Pease succeeds Runciman at the Board of Education. Charles Edward Henry Hobhouse succeeds Pease at the Duchy of Lancaster.
- February 1912 – Lord Crewe succeeds Lord Carrington as Lord Privy Seal, remaining also India Secretary. Thomas MacKinnon Wood succeeds Lord Pentland as Secretary for Scotland.
- June 1912 – The Attorney-General, Sir Rufus Isaacs, enters the Cabinet. Lord Haldane succeeds Lord Loreburn as Lord Chancellor. John Seely succeeds Haldane as Secretary for War.
- October 1913 – Sir John Simon succeeds Sir Rufus Isaacs as Attorney-General.
- February 1914 – John Burns succeeds Sydney Buxton as President of the Board of Trade. Herbert Samuel succeeds Burns at the Local Government Board. Sir Charles Edward Henry Hobhouse succeeds Samuel as Postmaster-General. Charles Frederick Gurney Masterman succeeds Hobhouse at the Duchy of Lancaster.
- March 1914 – Asquith temporarily succeeds John Edward Bernard Seely, 1st Baron Mottistone as Secretary for War.
- August 1914 – Lord Beauchamp succeeds Lord Morley as Lord President. Lord Emmott succeeds Beauchamp as First Commissioner of Public Works. Walter Runciman succeeds John Burns as President of the Board of Trade. Lord Lucas succeeds Runciman at the Board of Agriculture. Lord Kitchener succeeds Asquith as Secretary for War.
- January 1915 – Edwin Samuel Montagu succeeds Charles Frederick Gurney Masterman as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
List of Ministers
Members of the Cabinet are in bold face.
- Earl Loreburn from 1911.
- Marquess of Crewe from 1911
- Viscount Haldane from 1911
- Lord Pentland from 1909
- Lord Reading from 1913.
Source: Butler, David and Gareth Butler. Twentieth Century British Political Facts, 1900–2000. (St. Martin's, 2000)
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Second Asquith Ministry