Historical Studies in Industrial Relations

The Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act 1927 Reconsidered

Historical Studies in Industrial Relations (2016), 37, (1), 33–82.

Abstract

The Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act 1927, passed by Stanley Baldwin’s Conservative government after the General Strike, has been regarded as ‘more of an insult than an injury’. This article challenges such an interpretation, suggesting that the Act was draconian in conception and (to an extent) in execution. It represented a break with the industrial relations legal settlement which had been painstakingly arrived at by the 1920s. The pressures to unravel this settlement came much more from within the Conservative Party than as a result of the Strike, and saw Conservative moderates marginalized. For Labour and the trade unions, the Act demonstrated ‘deliberate class bias’ and they worked tirelessly for its repeal, eventually achieved by the Attlee government in 1946. The effects of the Act were more limited than expected but this was more the product of circumstances than intentions. The 1927 Act fits comfortably within an enduring pattern of Conservative distrust of the unions, the manifestations of which are visible today.

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Author details

Williamson, Adrian