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Disraeli : Reforms 1874 80

In contrast to his foreign policy, Disraelis cabinets domestic efforts did not bear
immediately satisfying results.
Machin: the large cluster of social Acts did not produce any collective
revolutionary change.
Lord Blake: described the domestic legislation as impressive, and taken
together they constitute the biggest instalment of social reform passed by any
one government in the nineteenth century. However, not one-nation
conservatism, but rather cautious and permissive. Also, it would be wrong to
pitch Disraelis claims too high as author of this valuable legislation.
Walton considers that the reforms were not a Disraelian programme but a
series of responses to problems.
A. Hawkins: his great achievement was to provide a rhetorical context for
the Acts, and to place the social condition of people near the top of the
political agena.
N. Lowe: Reforms were a remarkable achievement.
Permissive legislation was damaging, as the manifestation of laissez-faire
attitude. Ultimately served merely to weaken legislation.
In the short term, domestic legislation failed, since the Conservatives lost the
1880 election.
One must look past the electoral defeat of 1880 when evaluating Disraelis
legacy as that came as a result of hard times, in his own words. In the long
term, he was more successful
o Machin: today he is recalled as one of the chief founders of modern
success and achievement
o Jenkins argues that Disraeli, in his 1871 speeches stressing that
Conservative applied to the people of England and especially the
working classes of England hwo are proud of belonging to a great
country and wish to maintain its greatness, Disraeli had in mind Tory
o Subsequent dominance of Conservative party was built upon the
residue of Disraelis domestic policy
o Since Disraelis second ministry, the Party has won more elections than
any other party, on the back of 30% of the working class vote.
o Much of this down to Disraelis vision for the Party to broaden its
appeal and attract working classes.
o He achieved this with trade union legislation and the Factory Act.
o While his lack of action in response to the agricultural depression in
1879-80 led the crisis to deepen, he retained the support of a working
class subsection by refusing to raise food pricing, thus protecting the
interests of that part of the population.
o His opposition to Home Rule and unwillingness to discuss Ireland
helped garner support from sections of society that would have voted
Liberal prior to 1886.
Artisans Dwellings Act 1875
Spearheaded by Home Secretary Richard Cross, who was the only middle
class cabinet figure
Local authorities could use compulsory purchase orders to purchase and
demolish slum housing
They could then reconstruct whole areas and allow cheap properties to be let
at favourable rents to urban workers
Cross was met with intense opposition from within his own party as the
measure was seen as an infringement of the rights of private property due to
the use of compulsory purchase orders

Joseph chamberlain used the act in Birmingham to transform the city s
Act was permissive , not compulsory many authorities did little
Blake points out that by 1880 only 10 out of 81 local authorities had taken
advantage of the act
In London the act created problems as properties for the poor were demolished
with housing that was too expensive
Disraeli said this was his administrations chief measure and it was
considered to be one of the most important acts of his ministry:
Much of the housing that existed was of poor quality and cramped
Disraeli wanted to improve quality of life
This act would go further than the inadequate Housing Act passed by a Liberal
MP in Disraelis first ministry
Largely pragmatic

Public health act 1875

This was a consolidation act lead by Sclater Booth, that brought together and
simplified complex existing laws
He defined the powers of the new authorities more clearly
In 1872 the Liberals had put in place the recommendations of the Sanitary
Commision Report which Disraeli had set up during his first ministry in 1868
Medical officers had been appointed to large towns and sanitary

Along with the pollution of rivers act 1874, it remained the basis of public
health law until the 1920s
It was a triumph of administrative efficiency and more effective than 1872 act

This cleared up a huge amount of existing legislation form 1840s- 172
The Sale of Food and Drugs Act 1875
Sclater Booth was in charge of this act which forbade harmful ingredients
from being included in foods
Other drugs were forbidden from general sale
Major step in state regulation
This legislation lasted until 1928
But, limited to probation of harmful substances, bad practices like adding salt
to beer or water to milk were not covered
Permissive did not compel local authorities to employ the analysts needed to
enforce the law highly limited its success
Urban society meant people were growing less food for themselves and they
bough more , this brought about problems of hygiene and inaccurate labelling
A liberal act of 1872 was ineffective in dealing with these problems

The river pollutions act 1875

- attempted to limit the offensive habit of discharging poisonous liquids and
solid industrial waste materials into the waterways
- but, the act was totally inadequate, as there were no clear definitions of
pollution and it was applied inconsistently
- left it to County Court judges to define noxious fluids.
- Allowed the culprits sufficient time to sort out their operations before they
could be prosecuted
- Successful in limiting dumping, but unsuccessful in holding guilty parties to

licensing Act 1874

- amended Bruces licensing Act
- drinking time increased by 30 minutes
- magistrates were no longer able to interfere with drinking hours and police had
their search powers reduced
- The licensed victuallers were a powerful pressure group, who
had assisted the Conservative cause because of Gladstones
Licensing Act and the Intoxicating Liquors Bill therefore
obligingly relaxed the rules.
- government intervention in this area now accepted
- Gladstones harsh act was now rectified

Merchant shipping act 1876

- ship owners were made to draw a line the plimsoll line to indicate the maximum
load that could be taken
- not totally effective line could be drawn by the owners of the vessel
- completely permissive. This damaged the reputation of the government
- the Board of Trade was far from capable of inspecting every ship, and load
lines on ships were to be fixed by owners themselves, discouraging personal
- backbench pressure from Samuel Plimsoll the Liberal MP for Derby who had
made a scene tin the Commons the previous year when an earlier bill was
- there had also been an increase in shipping disasters due to overloading with

friendly societies act 1875

- Sir Stafford Northcote introduced this bill which attempted to regulate the
friendly societies
- These were associations whose members paid fixed contributions to ensure
help in sickness and old age and ensure provision for their families in the
event of death
- The societies could be given actuarial advice by the government and their
funds were safeguarded
- Societies had to publish more info about themselves belief that informed
public would now make a choice as to the society in which they could most
safely entrust money.
- friendly society funds continued to grow by 1891 they had 4.2million people
investing a total of 22.7 million
- Government regulation limited.
- the growth of the friendly societies required regulation
- the liberals had set up a royal commission but no legislation had been
- prompted by fears about the financial stability of many of these institutions,
which provided insurance cover for millions of people.

Agricultural Holdings Bill

- formed a legal constitution by which tenant farmers could claim compensation
from landlords for improvements.
- Purely voluntary


Disraelis efforts regarding trade unions were, unlike the rest of his reforms, entirely
successful. While trade unionists did provide pressure for greater powers, this
legislation served to fulfil two of Disraelis aims: winning the support of the workers,
and helping the working classes.
Blake: Trade Union reforms were much the most successful of the Conservative

Factory acts of 1874 and 1878

- hours in textile factories were reduced from 60/week to 56.5 for women and
young people
- the ban on half time employment was raised to 10 years
- full time employment raised to 14 years
- didnt statutorily regulate the conditions of work regulating to men, as this
would have been considered an unacceptable state interference.
- consolidated all previous legislation and abolished distinction between
factories and workshops

- reducing womens hours had a knock on effect for men as well
- free trade was still in place as mens hours were not dealt with
- v. significant act for Cross to get through

- administrative complexity was an issue and public opinion now favoured a
further reduction in the max. number of hours worked
- not a personal mission for Disraeli
- Pressure from Lancashire MPs, who wanted a 9-hour working day in factories.
- Industrial disputes surged in the early 1870s.

The conspiracy and protection of property act 1876

- lead by cross
- this legalised peaceful picketing

- The motive of this was to spite Gladstone
- Ensured the moderate and peaceful development of the trade union movement
- Appeased the unions and gains their support
- Genuine piece of legislation
- Actually legalised picketing. Allowed unions to act together without being
charged with conspiracy
- trade unions had objected to gladstones ban on peaceful picketing
- pleased pressure group
- and a lot complained that the law punished workers who broke their contract
more severly than employers who did this

the employers and workmen act 1876

- replaced the Master and Servant Act with more sensitive names that implied
greater equality
- before the act employees could be sued in criminal courts, whereas employers
where only liable in civil courts
- all cases regarding breach of employment contract would now be dealt with in
civil court
- all classes were equally treated by the law
- the secretary of the TUC, George Howell was satisfied, along with Disraeli,
that problems between labour and capital had been settled
- delight of union leaders, for whom the issue was settled for a generation
- Disraeli remarked that the legislation will gain and retain for the
Conservatives the lasting affection of the working classes.
- put both employer and worker on equal footing in cases of breach of contract.
- Walton the only straight-forwardly successful of the reforms.
- see blake and smiths views in booklet

Education Act 1876

- children 10-14 could only leave school if they had a certificate indicating
minimum levels of attainment
- grants to voluntary schools could be greater than the amount raised by
the school
- school committees were set up to combat truancy
- encouraged childrens attendance at school

- elementary education up to the age of 10 was now effectively compulsory, if
local authorities enforced attendance
- many poor families no longer had to pay fees
- the gov. wanted to encourage more voluntary schools, with incentive of
extra money
- merely permissive that committees could help parents who were too poor to
pay the school fees not compulsory