The Labour Party's policy towards land reform, 1900-1945.
By the outbreak of the Second World War the 'Land Question' was not as politically
controversial as it had been before 1914. It had fragmented into a series of separate
but related political issues. Radical interest had moved away from attacking the
landed aristocracy as a class and focused on the development and control of land-use,
particularly in urban areas, and the protection of agriculture and the countryside from
urban despoliation. The thesis concentrates on Labour Party policy at a national and a
local level in the period 1939-45. There was a plethora of Government white papers
and reports published on land-use control (physical planning's equivalent to the
welfare state's Beveridge Report), plus controversial legislation on town and country
planning to deal with the problem of reconstructing towns badly damaged by the blitz.
Much more could be said about the importance of post 1945 developments, but there
is not sufficient space to do adequate justice to this period. However, a number of ~
initial and preliminary comments are made in the conclusion about the record of the
1945 Labour Government.
The thesis makes a contribution in three areas of historical debate. First it traces in
detail the way Labour Party policy on land reform developed in the period from 1900
to 1945. This is a neglected area particularly after 1939. Four strands of policy made
up Labour's changing position on the Land Question: - agriculture and smallholdings;
land nationalisation and taxation of land values; town and country planning; and
National Parks and access to the countryside. Second it contributes to the historical
debate on the nature of the post-war consensus. It questions the extent to which
wartime debates on land reform could be said to form part of the origins of postwar
legislation. Third the thesis identifies some broader themes that influenced the
direction and nature of the Party's land reform policies. The tension between land
nationalistion and taxation of land values will be discussed, and its influence on the
development of Party ideology on public ownership in general. In addition the
influence of such important factors as agrarianism, pastoralism and central-local
government relationships will be discussed and assessed.