(5) Trade Union reform and Foreign policy
under Wilson's government 1964-70
Trade Union reform
Trade unions benefited initially from the
Trade Dispute Act passed in 1965.
This however, paved way to significant increase in workers and union
strikes - among the most damaging was a six-week strike by
the Seamen’s Union with another strike by the dockworkers a year later.
This restored the legal immunity of trade
union officials (could no longer be sued by the
government for threatening to strike).
Wilson responded positively by passing the
Docks and Harbours Act (1966) and the
Dock Labour Scheme (1967) respectively.
It reorganised the system of employment in the docks in order
to ensure a complete end to casual labour on the docks,
effectively giving workers the security of their jobs for life.
In May 1966, Wilson declared a 30% pay rise for doctors and
dentists which further fuelled union anger as national wages
elsewhere were at a steady rise of 3%, similar to the line of inflation.
Insurance Act 1966
This 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
Barbara Castle to First
Secretary of state
The white paper
She and Wilson worked on the White Paper ‘In Place Of Strife’
which aimed to establish an Industrial Relations Court where
ministers would be given power to settle inter-union disputes.
It also proposed to have a 28 day
‘cooling off’ period of conciliation before a
strike could be actually carried out.
The White Paper was heavily condemned by the
Unions (and Home Secretary James Callaghan) and
Ultimately Wilson and Castle had to withdraw all plans.
A final attempt was made by Wilson on 18 June 1969 where he
and the TUC met at Number 10 to discuss and come to an
agreement that the TUC will ‘monitor strikes and labour disputes’.
In June there was the outbreak Arab-Israeli war closed the Suez
Canal again, which severally damaged the British trade in the
region, it also drove up the price of oil due to restricted supplies.
The communist insurgency inside Malaya
was defeated; this meant that more British
troops could be withdrawn from the region.
One of the longest running ministers
in Wilson’s government (Denis Healey
stayed in office for 6 years).
Aimed to reduce defense commitments
and expenditure throughout the world due
to shrinking economy.
The TSR2 (a British Nuke delivering plane)
was scrapped; this showed that Britain’s
nuclear commitments were reducing.
Dispute US pressure the British navy would never
produce another aircraft carrier and the budget and
personnel inside the Territorial Army was also educed.
After the devaluation crisis the reduced budget meant that
Healey had to again cut corners wherever he could, this meant
that the British F111’s production also had to be stopped.
The annual GDP fell from 6% to 4% by 1971.
Britain completely withdrew from Asia;
all Britain’s troops were to leave by 1971.
De Gaulle again vetoed
Britain’s entry to the EEC.
No production quotas or industry targets
‘Indicative planning’ was where the state directed
money into certain industries, regions and products
Meant that the banks invested
money into factories and techniques.
The effect of this was that it transformed the
war-ravaged country of France into one of the
leading industrial powers inside Europe.
Meant that France’s road and rail was
one of he most modern in Europe.
The town planning seemed
efficient and modern compared to
Britain’s messy planning.
The investment into technology meant that in
many ways France was superior to Britain.
The top of France’s political system were
elite centralists and young technocrats
(thanks to their new education system).