Labour Governments and Private Industry: The Experience of 1945-1951

By H. Mercer; N. Rollings et al. | Go to book overview

One
Introduction

HELEN MERCER, NEIL ROLLINGS and JIM TOMLINSON


BACKGROUND

The Labour governments of 1945 to 1951 must be viewed as crucial for the British economy, laying down the lines of development from the Second World War until at least the 1970s. On short-term criteria the period saw the successful transition from a war economy to a peacetime economy centred around the need to increase exports and production. Viewing the longer term, some writers believe the Labour governments swung the economy along decisively new lines: structural re-orientation, an increase in workers' share of the national income and a government which had a clear set of objectives for reconstruction. 1 For others the Labour governments missed a unique opportunity to introduce and pursue long-term interventionist strategies of modernisation, let alone more socialist objectives of major shifts in wealth, ownership and power to the working class. 2 Conservatives and neo-liberal economists accuse the post-war Labour governments of embarking on a long -- and disastrous -- period of 'too much government' when planning, industrial interventionism and undue emphasis on the welfare state stifled the spirit of free enterprise. 3

From these standpoints, policies towards and relations with private industry are central to an examination of the role of the Labour governments in tackling Britain's long-term industrial problems. It is the performance of this sector, representing 80 per cent of manufacturing output in 1950, that is of most importance for Britain's economic development. Thus Arnold Rogow's prime justification for his book with Peter Shore, The Labour Government and British Industry 1945-51, published in 1955, was that it was this subject that would 'throw the most light on the substantive impact of the Labour government'. 4

Yet the subject has received scant attention from economic historians and economists. The vast majority of works on government economic policy in this period have concentrated on the macro-economic level of demand management and the 'Keynesian revolution', short-term policy objectives or on nationalisation. The focus of the major work on the economic policy of the period, Cairncross Years of Recovery, is wholly macro-economic, with a relatively brief and late chapter on

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Labour Governments and Private Industry: The Experience of 1945-1951
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Notes on the Contributors vi
  • Preface vii
  • One: Introduction 1
  • Part One the Policies 13
  • Appendix 2.2 Edited Version of Gen343/4 'Revised Draft of the Bill', 6 February 1951 32
  • Notes 33
  • Three: Productivity Policy 37
  • Four Anti-Monopoly Policy 55
  • Conclusions 69
  • Notes 70
  • Five: Private Industrial Investment 74
  • Six Whatever Happened to the British Warfare State? the Ministry of Supply, 1945-1951 91
  • Notes 113
  • Seven: Taxation Policy 117
  • Part Two the Sectors 135
  • Eight the Cotton Industry: A Middle Way Between Nationalisation and Self-Government? 137
  • Notes 160
  • Nine: The Motor Car Industry 162
  • Ten the Shipbuilding Industry1 186
  • Appendix 10.1 204
  • Appendix 10.1 208
  • Eleven: The Film Industry 212
  • Index 237
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