THE general election held in January 1906, which followed on the resignation of Balfour and the accession of Campbell- Bannerman, resulted in the rout of the Unionists and the return of a vast Liberal majority. In the new Cabinet, Lloyd George was President of the Board of Trade. He was forty-two when he became a Cabinet Minister for the first time; Asquith, Chancellor of the Exchequer, was eleven years his senior, and Winston Churchill, Under-Secretary for the Colonies, was eleven years his junior. Churchill had earlier broken with the Tories on tariff reform. These were to be the Big Three of their generation in shaping and guiding the destinies of Great Britain and Ireland.


From the outset of his career, as we have seen, Lloyd George was an ardent advocate of disestablishment of the Welsh Church, and had often embarrassed the tepid Liberal administration with his vehemence. When he took office in 1905, pledges were given that disestablishment would remain an integral part of the legislative programme of the Liberal party, but the immediate passing of any Welsh Church bill was overshadowed by larger issues involving not Wales alone, but the whole of Britain.

Throughout the eighties and nineties, at an increasing rate, the nation's awareness of what was comprehensively called 'the social problem' had grown in width and depth. Charles Booth Life and Labour of the People in London ( 1889- 1903) converted a vague, emotional impression of metropolitan misery into facts and figures. A Royal Commission on Labour had traced the features of trade unionism, old and new, and shown the class cleavage between the ranks of skilled and unskilled. A Select Committee of the House of Lords on the Sweating System ( 1888) had uncovered shocking conditions prevailing for workers in the slums. In 1905 Balfour appointed the Poor Law Commission; its Majority and Minority Reports, published in 1909, extended Booth's limited picture to


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