“Nationalisation is the centre piece of the socialist vision, an inevitable outcome of long standing debates within the labour party and of its rise to power” (Caincross 85 cited in Millward 97)
This is one of the arguments for the programme of nationalisation in the UK. It is one of many suggested for the phenomena, which occurred in the late 40’s, and accounted for over80% of the transfer of private industry to public ownership. This particular political argument centres on the idea that
“Private ownership of productive assets creates a concentration of power over resources which is intolerable in a democracy” (Griffith & Wall 98)
With this in mind, nationalised industries came to produce 9% of the UK’s GDP and were responsible for employing 7.3% of the UKworkforce. (Griffith & Wall 98)
The First World War gave great momentum to socialist theory, lead primarily by the Webb partnership, which produced various great works, and were key to the development of the trade unions. In early 1918 the Webb’s produced “Labour and the new social order” containing ideas, which the labour party quickly adopted. It promoted
“The progressive eliminationfrom industry of the private capitalist, individual or joint stock; and the setting free of all who work whether by hand or brain, for the service of the community” (Webb 1918 cited in Kelf – Cohen 61)
Six months on, labour called for the “Immediate nationalisation of railways, mines and electric power” however by 1920 there was talk of nationalisation of all the industries and all the services,in one go, so the Webb’s set about providing the best form of administration for each industry and service on an individual basis, dealing first and foremost with those on a national basis. In there eyes the objective for nationalisation was to centralise and improve service, create full participation of workers in the management process, safe guarding the interests of consumers and the generalwelfare of society at a whole (Kelf – Cohen 61)
The idea of nationalisation, which was seen by the Webb’s and encapsulated so rapidly by the labour party, was put on hold due to the economic problems created by war. Apart from the creation of BBC and the Central Electricity Board in 1926 along with others, i.e. British Overseas Airways Corporation, which although the significant act was passedit did not come into subsistence, due to the occurrence of war, the “Basic” industries such as coal, who’s disputes were a feature of the war and its industrial dilemmas, were at that time not an option. (Webb 73)
From this point onwards nationalisation policies within the labour party where in a state of change and nationalisation became one of the most controversial issues in British politics.It was not until 1945 that the labour party, under Mr Attlee, began the first major programme of nationalisation, with labours manifesto stating “Let us face the future” (Morrison 54), dealing with the notion of public ownership and policies to nationalise the transport industries, power industries and iron and steel sector.
Nationalisation of these sectors began with the “Electricity Act 1947”,“Transport Act 1947” and the “Iron and steel act 1949”, which came into play in 1951 after much deliberation within parliament.
There are various reasons as to why nationalisation may have been utilized, falling under economic and political headings, politically the main argument is that of socialist vision, with thoughts that public ownership was an important step towards complete socialism underthe labour government, however other political arguments, for example that of the liberals, under David Lloyd George suggested ownership under the state was the only way to set a minimum standard and for universal access to be guaranteed. Nationalisation can also increase political power and stability of the government due to the potential for support through a widening sphere of influence. It...
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