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CABINET PAPERS
Complete classes from the CAB & PREM series in the Public Record Office
Series Three: CAB 128 & CAB 129 - Cabinet Conclusions & Cabinet Memoranda, 1945 and following

Part 2: The Attlee Government, August 1945 - October 1951
(CAB 128/14-22 & CAB 129/21-47)

We continue our coverage of the CAB 128 and CAB 129 files for the Attlee administration and enables scholars to look at issues such as:

  • Escalating Cold War tensions - the Communist coup in Czechoslovakia, the Brussels Treaty of March 1948 and the Berlin Crisis, 1948-1949
  • Soviet foreign policy in the aftermath of the Berlin Airlift, the secret treaty between Russia and Communist China, the threat to Western Europe, US pressure on the Attlee Government and the British response in terms of increased defence expenditure
  • Britain’s increasing dependency on the United States
  • British reaction to the Schuman Plan
  • Britain’s role in Africa and the Middle East - Abadan and the Persian oil crisis of April 1951; Suez and Sudan; riots on the Gold Coast; Rhodesia, Nyasaland and pressure for a Central African Federation
  • The Public Ownership of key industries
  • Economic policy following Dalton’s resignation from the Treasury in November 1947
  • Emphasis on public provision and consolidation after 1948 - Cripps’s strict regime of budgetary management and high taxation, the economic revival of 1950 and Gaitskell’s new initiatives of January-March 1951
  • Cuts in the welfare programme and a scaling back of Bevan’s housing plan
  • Soaring expenditure on the National Health Service
  • Developments in China and the Far East
  • The Korean War
  • Aneurin Bevan’s resignation and divisions in the Labour Party
  • Malaya
  • Relations with the Commonwealth
  • NATO and Defence Policy

The following extract from [CAB 129/19: C.P.(47)185], a Memorandum by the Minister of Supply, 5 June 1947, gives a flavour of protracted and agonised Cabinet debate over Iron and Steel nationalisation:

"... There is no doubt that legislation providing for a comprehensive public ownership scheme on the lines approved by the Cabinet will give rise to more sustained and bitter opposition than any socialisation measure hitherto introduced. This will be a frontal assault on a citadel of industrial power: and the opposition will be the more bitter in that the industry has been led by Sir Andrew Duncan to expect that any Government scheme would fall substantially short of complete ownership.... I am clear that it is not possible to make minor modifications in our scheme which would meet the Federation’s representations. The issue is therefore whether (a) we are to tell the (Iron and Steel) Federation that the Government reject their arguments and will proceed with the approved scheme; or (b) we should explore the possibility of some alternative arrangements, falling short of immediate and comprehensive public ownership, which would give us most of our objectives and which the Industry could be brought to accept or which would reduce the field of controversy.... "

These files provide essential evidence for scholarly research and graduate course work. Covering both domestic issues and international relations, they are most important for any study of British Government Policy after 1945.



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