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Distressed Areas Commission

Administrative/Biographical History

The Distressed Areas Commission was very much the work of future Chancellor of the Exchequer Hugh Dalton. It came about as a result of decisions taken at the 1936 Labour Party conference, where Dalton was charged with leading an investigation into conditions in which people lived and worked, or did not, in the Special Areas. These were areas that found themselves hit hardest by the depression from 1929 onwards, Central Scotland, North East England, South Wales, and in this instance East Lancashire.
Concentrating on the social and economic conditions in the East Lancashire area its evidence is in one sense familiar to anybody who understands the impact of the 1930s on British industrial power. Yet the DAC was simply more than an organisation which accumulated evidence for the sake of it, for what is clearly in evidence from its conclusions is that it was able to deliver quite solid answers to serious and seemingly intractable problems.
Unemployment being the most serious of these problems, largely because so much else flowed from it, questions of health, housing and education being amongst those of greatest importance.
The Commission left Manchester in January 1937 and travelled through Rossendale, Burnley, Padiham, Blackburn, Bury, Bootle, Liverpool, Oldham and Manchester.

Sources

Press cuttings – extensive national and local press cuttings collected by the Labour Party, reporting the Commission’s progress

Reports and statistics – covering the whole of East Lancashire ranging from such organisations as Liverpool Council, Lancashire Public Assistance Committee, the Air Ministry, Westhoughton District Labour Party, Burnley Trade Council, Rossendale Shoe Operatives Union, Padiham Weavers.

Correspondence – between Dalton, The Daily Herald, as well as local Lancashire MPs, medical officers, foundry workers unions and employment exchanges

Covering two standard archive boxes the Distressed Areas Commission (DAC) offers a glimpse of a world just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War.

Following this there are several hundred pages of correspondence, reports, statistics, written evidence, and published reports that cover the whole of east Lancashire.