What were the key changes in welfare provision under Margaret Thatcher (1979 – 1990) and what political ideas influenced these changes? Give examples from specific social policy areas.
Margaret Thatcher was one of the most significant women in political history. She was born in 1925 and throughout her school and college career she was always interested in politics and would often take the role of a leader, for example being elected as President of Oxford University Conservative Association. She was put in the general election several times but was often defeated. It wasn’t until 1959 where she made it to be an MP. In 1970 she then became the Secretary of State for Education and Science where she made changes to education systems such as removing free milk for the over 7’s. This gave her the nickname the ‘milk snatcher’. This was purely because Edward Heath, prime minister at the time, had ordered a cut of budgets. As Thatcher was in charge of the education side in politics, it was her duty to manage the funds and expenditure to stick the budget. And to do this her idea was to cut the school milk given out free for all children in primary education. However it is interesting to note that Edward Heath did in fact demand to abolish all free milk that was provided for children, but Margaret Thatcher decided it was still important to be supplied for the 5-7 year olds. She continued to make many changes that incredibly benefitted the country. It was when she was appointed Secretary of Education that she became apparent and influential to the public. It was from then where she begun to make some major changes. She revived the economy, improved outdated institutions and strengthened the nation’s foreign policy. However in doing so she was not always very popular. She also became one of the founders of a school of conservative conviction politics. This raised her status considerably as it had a strong and beneficial impact on politics. She was one of the most respected, powerful and confident political leaders in the world yet. This essay is going to explore the key changes she made to the welfare state and what the reasons were for these changes.
One of Margaret Thatcher’s most influential changes was her cutback on housing expenditure. The Housing Act 1980 was passed under Thatcher’s authority, in which it gave 5 million council house tenants the right to buy their houses at large discounts. As a result of this the home ownership rose from 55% in 1980 to 64% in 1987 and the Treasury gained a substantial amount of money. Margaret Thatcher had clear aims when she passed the Housing Act. Some aims were as follows, to encourage occupation of houses to be by the owners, to reduce the local authority housing provision, to minimise the public spending on houses and obviously to gain as much advantages politically as possible. From the 1960’s there had always been aims to increase house ownership and encourage it to the public. It wasn’t until Margaret Thatcher was appointed that it was put in place. It was one of the most radical and influential moves she made during her time in politics and was another step in the direction the Labour Party had moved to already. The Housing Act that she passed was trying a large reform in rented housing. There were many acts in previous years that passed certain rules but none that made quite an impact as this. For example one act enforced councils were to transfer their council houses on to housing associations. The outcome of Thatcher’s government agreeing and passing this rule was very positive. Some statistics show the impact it had. For example by 1990 over a million and a quarter of the council houses had been sold and the proportion of housing that was occupied by the owner grew from 57% to 68% (1979-1989). Margaret’s incentive was also to reduce public expenditure. This was also achieved by passing this act as the net capital spending was reduced considerably from £6 billion...
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