The Labour Party is founded – a new party for a new century – working people are united by the goal of changing the British Parliament to represent the interests of everybody.
Our first Government under Prime Minister Macdonald began a building programme of 500,000 homes for working-class families (Wheatley Housing Act), introduced a minimum wage (The Agricultural Wages Act), increased financial support for parents and the unemployed, and guaranteed a weekly pension for the poorest over-75s (Old Age Pensions Act).
A second Government, formed again by Macdonald, introduced the 7½ hour working day (Coal Mines Act), replaced unsanitary slums with new homes, committed £50m to public work schemes (£2.8bn in today’s money#), renamed mental ‘asylums’ as ‘hospitals’ (Mental Treatment Act), and provided school meals and milk daily to 600,000 children. Our Minister of Labour, Margaret Bondfield was the first female cabinet member of any political party.
The Second World War. Many Labour ministers serve in a Conservative-led coalition Government. Clement Attlee is in office as Deputy Prime Minister.
The National Health Service and welfare state. Under Prime Minister Attlee, this was an era of nation-building following the Second World War. We brought much of the economy in to public ownership – railways, the Bank of England, electricity, coal, gas, and steel – resulting in full employment. Minister for Health, Nye Bevan, realised a vision for free healthcare for all, ‘to relieve your money worries in time of illness’. Overseas, Attlee negotiated independence for India.
Bracknell was designated as a New Town on 17 June.
Prime Minister Wilson was a liberal reformer. He abolished the death penalty, decriminalised homosexuality (Sexual Offences Act), legalised abortion by registered practitioners and criminalised discrimination (Race Relations Act). Generous investment in education resulted in new universities, 30 vocational polytechnics, and the establishment of the Open University, giving working adults the chance to keep learning.
Wilson’s second Government shored up the principle of social welfare with improvements to disability benefits, state pensions and child allowances. He outlawed gender inequality (Sex Discrimination Act) and introduced maternity leave (Employment Protection Act).
Callaghan took up the PM’s office, focusing on the rehabilitation of criminals (Community Service by Offenders Act) and refreshing of older housing stock. He formed a Youth Opportunities Programme to help 16-18 year olds in to work.
Tony Blair repositioned the party as pro-market democratic socialists. He presided over peace in Ireland (Belfast/Good Friday Agreement), devolution of power to Scotland and Wales, the Human Rights Act, the dissolution of hereditary peerages and greater transparency in Government (Freedom of Information Act). Labour inaugurated the National Minimum Wage, civil partnerships for gay people and paternity leave (Employment Act). We won the bid for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, brought tax relief to charities through Gift Aid and used the UK’s presidency of the G8 countries to cancel the debts of the world’s poorest nations. At home, Prime Minister Blair delivered nursery places, breast cancer screening, entry to museums and galleries, TV licences, bus passes and eye tests – all for free.
Prime Minister Brown stabilised the economy following the crisis in the banking sector. He lengthened the duration of paid holiday and gave 16-18 year olds the right to an apprenticeship. All of the UK’s anti-discrimination laws were codified in the Equality Act and he legislated to eradicate child poverty.