A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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20th January, 1942


The Board of Trade has reported that, owing to the operation of the pre-war quota, there are complaints of very inadequate supplies of newspapers in rural areas where war industries have recently developed. R.I.Os were asked to report on this situation; replies have been received from ten Regions.

Results :

1. No specific complaints are recorded from rural areas where new industries have developed.

2. In all areas, rural and urban, where the population has increased from any cause (reception areas, etc.) few or no spare newspapers are available for casual customers; but standing orders placed in advance are usually executed. A true shortage is stated to exist in the inland parts of the Southern Region.

3. In evacuated areas, casual customers can usually buy any newspaper they wish (e.g: in Bournemouth and the Isle of Wight).

4. In some places, newsagents serving wide areas have been able to make their own adjustments.

5. In some rural areas, there are complaints of shortages of local papers, which are particularly useful to newcomers for information about local events, entertainment etc.

6. Specific areas :

  1. In the Northern Region, population increases at Darlington (75,930 in 1938 to 84,794 in 1942) and Flaxton R.D. (14,640 in 1938 to 20,096 in 1942) have caused the Northern Echo to make representations to the R.I.O. that its circulation is inadequate to meet public demands.

  2. In the Southern Region, there are complaints from the trade about the number of ephemeral periodicals still being published, and it is felt that concentration could be carried out by “consultation”.

  3. At Crewe there are complaints of “lack of variety of papers”, and an evening paper is unable to meet the demand.

  4. In Northern Ireland, a shortage is general, and one Belfast paper has complained strongly that restriction of newsprint gives an unfair advantage to Dublin papers (some of them unsympathetic to Britain).


Reports have so far been received from only eight Regions. from none of these does there appear to be any conclusive evidence of an aggravation of the tobacco shortage owing to an influx of industrial workers. The Northern, North Western, Welsh and London Regions, report a general improvement during recent months.

Increase in newly developed industrial areas .

The R.I.Os North Midland, Southern and South Eastern Regions, state that there is no evidence that the shortage has been increased by the demand of industrial workers; in Reading, for instance, the opening of new factories on the outskirts does not appear to have added to supply difficulties, as might have been expected.

The R.I.O. South Eastern Region considers, however, that an increase in the Forces is partly responsible for the shortage, especially in the Medway towns; in the North Western Region, too, the R.A.F. and soldiers are said “to have added to the difficulties”.

In Wales an acute shortage in the Cardiff district is attributed “in part” to an increase in population.

Difficulties for newcomers

The R.I.O. Southern Region reports that strangers arriving in reception areas and “under control” methods are said to add to their troubles. But in evacuation centres the position is comparatively easy.

Public opinion

The tobacco shortage has now been going on so long that it appears to be more or less taken for granted. Even when industrial areas are less well supplied than rural districts, this seems to be accepted as “wartime necessity”.

In some depopulated areas small shops are thought to be getting supplies based on their pre-war consumption; a re-examination of the basis of distribution is thought desirable.

Home Intelligence.

15th January, 1942

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