Betterton, Henry Bucknall, Baron Rushcliffe 1872-1949, politician, was born at Woodville, Blackfordby, Leicestershire, 15 August 1872, the son of Henry Inman Betterton, J.P., brewer, by his wife, Agnes, daughter of Samuel Bucknall. Educated at Rugby and Christ Church, Oxford, he obtained a fourth class in modern history in 1893. He was called to the bar by the Inner Temple at the age of twenty-four and practised, not unsuccessfully, as a lawyer for twenty years. He was appointed O.B.E. in 1918 and C.B.E. in 1920 for services during the war and entered politics as Conservative member for the Rushcliffe division of Nottinghamshire in December 1918. He was parliamentary secretary to the Ministry of Labour during the Conservative administrations of 1923 and 1924-9 and was created a baronet in 1929.
Although fundamentally a Conservative in politics, he made his mark when he became minister of labour under Ramsay MacDonald's leadership in the national Government of 1931, and was sworn of the Privy Council. He was not a particularly ambitious man and probably never expected or sought to become a minister of the Crown, least of all the minister in charge of labour questions. He was, however, guided by a strong sense of duty, and he found himself sympathetic towards the new trends of social thought which were developing within the Conservative Party. His pleasant and tactful manner made him many friends in all parties and no one was more skilful in handling the difficult problems with which he was confronted.
His major political task was undoubtedly that of piloting the Unemployment Act of 1934 through the House of Commons. This was a highly controversial measure designed to strengthen and expand unemployment insurance financed by contributions of workers and employers and to establish a new basic system of State relief for those normally in the employment field who were in need. The Unemployment Assistance Board was set up as a central organization with local offices. It was this Board which first discovered an acceptable and uniform way of administering cash assistance without invidious conditions, but also without abandoning the principle of a test of needs and means. Betterton, with his wide human sympathy and tactful personality, was largely responsible for this important step forward in Britain's social policy, and it was natural that he should be selected as the first chairman of the Board which he had created. In 1934 he retired from Parliament to join the Board where he remained until 1941. In 1935 he was created Baron Rushcliffe, of Blackfordby, in the county of Leicester, and in 1941 he was promoted G.B.E.
Rushcliffe served on many committees and was chairman of the one which in 1943 determined an improved wage-scale for British nurses which became known as the Rushcliffe scale. He was also active as chairman of the special committee on legal aid and legal advice.
He was twice married: first, in 1912 to Violet (died 1947), widow of Captain Hervey Greathed of the 8th Hussars, and daughter of John Saunders Gilliat, formerly governor of the Bank of England. In 1948 he married Inez Alfreda, Lady Snagge (died 1955), whose first marriage had been dissolved, and who was the daughter of the late Alfred Lubbock, of Par, Cornwall. There were two daughters by the first wife, but there was no son to inherit the titles which therefore became extinct.
Contributor: R. C. Davison.