In 1929, the Labour Party came to power, and the overseas training centres were turned into camps for training the long term unemployed. The focus of the new camps was to be on ‘reconditioning’ young unemployed men, through heavy manual labour in remote settings. The Labour Government introduced compulsory recruitment for the long term unemployed, as part of its wider policy for ‘labour transference’. This reflected a longer term socialist debate about national citizens’ service, with the Webbs in particular taking a strongly authoritarian view of the obligations of the unemployed. In practice, compulsory training – workfare in modern terms – was a failure, and it was abandoned when Labour lost power.
Instructional Centres under the National Government
Under the National Government, the Ministry of Labour’s control over work camps grew, as did its scale. While recruitment was voluntary once more, the number of camps and training places were expanded, and the scheme was opened up to all long-term unemployed males. Its main focus continued to be ‘reconditioning’ through heavy manual labour. The creation of the Unemployment Assistance Board brought the remaining municipal labour colonies under the control of central government, and increased the civil service professional cadre concerned with training. A number of policy-makers continued to press for compulsory recruitment (workfare) but this was resisted by the training professionals, who preferred the more relaxed discipline of voluntary recruits. There was increasing attention to measuring and analysing the physical changes brought about by ‘reconditioning’. However, placement rates were low after training, and the majority of trainees returned to unemployment. In its own terms, the scheme must be judged a failure. The camps closed in 1939.
university fees, zero-hour contracts, and
‘workfare’, and had met with major demonstrations in March
2011 with as many 500,000 protestors taking to London’s streets. 9 At the same
time, while Hong Kong enjoyed some of the world’s most modern
infrastructure, and its MTR Corporation had even been contracted to run
a London overground rail line, British economics journalists would
claim, in 2012, that the UK
: The Politics of Inquiry,
Enactment, and Implementation, 1832–1839 (London, 1978), p. 15.
29 W. Apfel and P. Dunkley, ‘English rural society and the New Poor
Law: Bedfordshire, 1834–47’, Social History, 10 (1985), 37–68; B. Harris, ‘Charity and poor relief in England and Wales, circa 1750–1914’, in
B. Harris and P. Bridgen (eds.), Charity and Mutual Aid in Europe and
North America since 1800 (London, 2007), pp. 20–3.
30 Hammond and Hammond, The Village Labourer.
31 A. Digby, British Welfare Policy: Workhouse to Workfare (London, 1989),
p. 31; D. Englander, Poverty