History of The British Labour Party - The Wilson Years - Social and Educational Reforms

Social and Educational Reforms

The 1960s Labour government is probably most remembered for the liberal social reforms introduced or supported by Home Secretary Roy Jenkins. Notable amongst these was the legalisation of male homosexuality and abortion, reform of divorce laws, the abolition of theatre censorship and capital punishment (except for a small number of offences - notably high treason) and various legislation addressing race relations and racial discrimination.

In Wilson's defence, his supporters also emphasise the easing of means testing for non-contributory welfare benefits, the linking of pensions to earnings, and the provision of industrial-injury benefits. Wilson's government also made significant reforms to education, most notably the expansion of comprehensive education and the creation of the Open University.

In spite of the economic difficulties faced by Wilson's government, it was therefore able to achieve important advances in a number of domestic policy areas. As reflected by Harold Wilson in 1971,

"It was a government which faced disappointment after disappointment and none greater than the economic restraints in our ability to carry through the social revolution to which we were committed at the speed we would have wished. Yet, despite those restraints and the need to transfer resources from domestic expenditure, private and public, to the needs of our export markets, we carried through an expansion in the social services, health, welfare and housing, unparallelled in our history".

As noted by one historian, in summing up the reform record of Wilson's government, "In spite of the economic problems encountered by the First Wilson Government and in spite of (and to some degree in response to) the criticisms of its own supporters, Labour presided over a notable expansion of state welfare during its time in office."

Read more about this topic:  History Of The British Labour Party, The Wilson Years

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