Letting the Wolf through the door : public morality, politics and "permissive" reform under the Wilson Governments, 1964-1970
The thesis presents an analysis of the process by which the Wolfenden tstrategy' of separating sin from the ambit of the criminal law translated into legislative change under a Labour Government wedded to a broad philosophy of legal and social reform. It examines in turn the reform of the laws governing homosexuality, abortion, theatre censorship and divorce, which were passed during the first Wilson administration, and the attempts to reform the laws governing Sunday entertainments. It is based on extensive archival research including much previously unused material, and analyses the key influences on the reform process - the Cabinet, Whitehall, the Labour Party, MPs, the House of Lords, the Churches, the press, pressure groups and public opinion - to establish their attitudes and influence on the debates. The thesis begins with a reassessment of the continuing debate about isp ermissiveness" and, the significance of "permissive" reform in the historiography of the 1960s and the Wilson Governments. It then examines the underlying causes of evolving social and moral attitudes in post-war Britain, particularly secularisation, the disruption of the Second World War and increasing economic affluence form the mid-1 950s onwards. Chapters three to seven look at each reform, or "Conscience Bill" as they were termed in Whitehall, including a comparison with their treatment by the preceding Conservative administration, particularly after the publication of the Wolfenden Report. 4 5 Chapter 8 analyses the relationship between the Government, publicly neutral but privately sympathetic on the issues involved, and the tortuous procedures which Private Members' Bills faced in becoming law, even in such a hospitable atmosphere.