This publication, Duty and Democracy: Parliament and the First World War, has been produced especially for the centenary of the First World War. It examines the role of Parliament, its Members and staff during the conflict. It outlines the key legislation passed during the period that affected the strategy of the First World War and wider social changes taking place during the period. It includes detailed profiles of selected Parliamentarians and House staff who either served or influenced matters during the war.Jump to full report >>
No one in the United Kingdom was immune to the horrors of the First World War, whether they were at the front, in a reserved occupation, or an anxious relative beset with worry on behalf of loved ones.
Parliament, its Members and staff were no different. 264 MPs served in the First World War, with 22 of these making the ultimate sacrifice. Many more Members’ sons and House staff were also killed, now remembered on the war memorial in Westminster Hall.
During this period, important legislation was passed by Parliament that had a fundamental impact on the military strategy of the war and wider social changes taking place at home.
This publication explores the influence Parliament had during the war and, just as importantly, the people who helped to ensure democracy played such a central role in decisions and debate.
The horrific losses and suffering of this conflict must never be forgotten in ensuring our freedoms of today, and our children’s freedoms in the future.
The centenary of the First World War is a good moment to reflect on how democracy operated in a time of crisis and how the balance between security and liberties was managed.
It also enables us to reveal the voices and role of women during the war such as 2nd Viscountess Rhondda; a suffragette, daughter of an MP who survived the sinking of the Lusitania and who went on to fight a famous test case in an attempt to take her seat in the House of Lords.
There are many more extraordinary characters in this publication such as Private Lord Crawford who shunned ministerial office for a role on the front line.
Of the 323 members of the Lords who served, 24 were killed and the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith (later Earl of Oxford and Asquith) lost his son Raymond at the Battle of the Somme.
The war was to affect generations to come but a new sense of rights had emerged leading to votes for women over 30 and an increase in the number of men enfranchised.
The war was to shape Parliament’s development and Parliament was to shape the war and this struggle 100 years on should always be remembered.
Commons Briefing papers CBP-7753
Authors: Chris Blanchett; Oonagh Gay; Mari Takayanagi