A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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18th February, 1942 .


An investigator acting for Home Intelligence has recently visited fifty-six factories in the areas of London and Slough, and has talked with managements and workers. These visits, which were made between 12th January and 4th February 1942, were in connection with certain present and future campaigns. The following points have been reported by the investigator in what she thought to be the order of their importance.


A high proportion of managements stated either that income tax had slowed down production to begin with, but that this was better now; or that production was still seriously slowed down. The main grouses of the workers are said to be these:-

  1. Tax on overtime and bonuses , making them feel that the extra effort is not worth while.

  2. The assessment of a married woman's income with that of her husband, which is keeping women out of the factories, or while they are there making them careless of good time-keeping or guilty absenteeism.

  3. Scepticism as to postwar credits . They feel that no clerical staff will be able to keep track of the sums owed and that the money is gone for ever.

Factories reporting trouble over income tax :-

Horlick's (Employment Manager), Brookside Metal Works (Managing Director), de Havilland (Office Manager): “We had a lot of trouble; then we got an Inland Revenue man down to speak to the workers and explain it to them. He came unofficially. Since then we've had no trouble and production has come up again”.

Brillo (Works Manager): “Trouble until we explained to workers”.

Pakcel (Accountant): “Unmarried female labour accepts tax all right; older male workers grouse: “What do I get out of it anyway?” “Won't work overtime as money goes in income tax.”

Geo. Cohen (Managing Director): “A lot of trouble over tax and men not wanting to work overtime”.

Vacuum Brakes (Assistant General Manager): “Some say it's slowed down production; others not. On the whole it has to some extent in our works”.

A. Wright (Director and Secretary): “The income tax powers had a bad effect - they wasted half an hour of the men's time! Before that we had trouble, but they helped a lot”.

Norton and Gregory (General Manager): “If the Government assessment of married women with their husbands were altered we'd get 50% more female labour in the factories, and we're crying out for more labour”.

Hawker Aircraft (Works Manager): “Production would go up 50% if bonus wages were not taxed:[Text Missing] Now workers are definitely limiting their production. They'll do 50 hours but not 55 as it's not an economic proposition. All the talk in the world will not convince them. Income tax on ordinary wages they accept and think is all right; but not on bonuses. It gives them no incentive to do the extra bit which is so important. Had the income tax people no experience of working men and their particular mentality? It's a serious matter for the country if production stays slowed down like this”.

Brown Bros. (Aircraft) : “People feel it, but are working better since we explained it”. (Works Manager).

Trico-Folberth (Works Manager): “More propaganda is needed. Tax has slowed up production”.

Chrysler Motors (Merchandising Officer): “Production has dropped since income tax on overtime. Never more than 80% overtime work is being done now of the maximum of 60 hours. 46½ hours is worked on ordinary pay; the rest is at overtime rates. On Saturdays only 20% at work. Go to the dogs, football matches or the pictures instead. We could expand our aircraft part of the factory considerably if we could get more labour. Women are not coming in as they should. One reason, the joint assessment of income with those of their husbands”.

Park Ward (Labour Officer): “Production slowed down; workers don't understand income tax. Sore points are tax on overtime and assessment of married women with their husbands. Much absenteeism and lateness since tax”.

Beethoven Electric Equipment (General Manager): “Government made terrible mistake in imposing direct taxation on workers' wages. It has crippled production and the situation is extremely serious. If budgeted for, then the extra money should have come out of increased purchase tax. Workers are sceptical about repayment of part of tax after the war. Don't believe that clerical staff will be able to keep account of all the amounts due. Suggest in place of propaganda and posters the simple device of savings stamps to be stuck on wage packets. “Post War Credit Stamps” or something of that sort, would have good effect. Each stamp would represent 5/- or 10/- - the part of the tax due for postwar repayment; the worker, who is stamp-minded now, would be able to feel he was saving and had something definite for the future. You must know by now the engrained scepticism of the British workman, and his inability to believe in vague Government promises. At least, he feels they are vague, if he's got nothing to show for them. No security in writing, so to speak. The tax is a big mistake, but if it can't be altered, for the sake of the urgent need for maximum production something of this sort should be done at once. Production is falling, and that means a vicious circle as less money is being gathered in taxes. Also absenteeism is increasing, and overtime being avoided. It was indeed a terrible mistake of Keynes', or Kingsley Wood's, or whoever was responsible for it”.

G.E.C . (Transport Manager): “Workers getting more used to it, but a good deal of trouble at first”.

Romac Industries (Manager): “Slowed down production at first. Poster helped, and our Company Secretary explained it to the workers. Production has come back now”.

Wagner & Brandon (Director and Manager): “Workers don't want to work overtime because of income tax. The last poster should help. Hands are pressing to get a rise, so the Government will really be paying the tax itself”.

Wreschner's (Assistant Works Manager): “Time is being wasted and lost to dodge income tax”.

C.W.S. Preserve & Pickle Works (Resident Manager and Works Manager): “Income tax? Let it lie. It's caused so much trouble already. Workers now stick at £4 a week so as not to pay tax. Won't earn more. They must be convinced that for every £1 they earn in overtime 13/6d is theirs, so they're better off than if they didn't earn that £1 at all. Females won't work overtime because of tax. Joint assessments a grievance. Production is slow - not half what it should be. We're several weeks behind schedule”.

Acton Bolt and Fine Threads (Secretary): “A lot of trouble until Managing Director explained position. Also shop stewards. No slow down now. But married women grudge paying income tax jointly with their husbands. Should be assessed separately. Certainly men are sticking at about £5 a week, as there's no inducement to earn more, and married women are not responding as they might because of the tax”.

Cash Registers (Maintenance Officer): “I've heard workers say: “What's the use of me earning a lot when the Government is taking it all from me”.

Berry's Electric (Works Manager): “Has slowed down production here. Men wouldn't believe they'll get some of it back after the war. Now a little more confident. Good Labour man or workman should speak on the radio about it and tell them they've got something to gain. A plain statement in their own language is what's wanted”.


Two managements (Horlick's and The Gramophone Co.) remarked what a great appeal Russia has for the workers today. The former stated that when a collection was made for Russia a short time ago more money than ever before was collected, and most was given by men who seldom gave anything. The Gramophone Co. contact spoke of “the Russian complex” and said that workers could be made to do any amount of extra work if they knew it was for Russia. These, and two other managements, who merely gave it as their opinion and not from direct experience, thought that Russia's example of sacrifice and endeavour should be put before the working public more often and more strongly. One suggested that for the “Quicker Turnround” campaign a Russian dispatch or transport worker should be brought over to talk about how they got on with the job in their own country.


(1) Two managements, (Trice-Folberth and Chrysler) spoke with bitterness of the “racket” of doctor's certificates , which were given out to the workers if they had the “slightest little finger ache”. One quoted the case of a girl in the office who had rung her doctor to ask his advice about something slight, and at the end of the conversation he had said: “Now you'll want a certificate, I suppose”. She replied indignantly that she had no intention of staying away from work for something so slight. Much time is stated to be lost by absence on doctors' certificates.

(2) One management (Vauxhall Motors) said the Ministry's propaganda was not dynamic enough and that the workers of Britain needed “frightening”. “Molotov's Note of the Russian atrocities should be printed in pamphlet form and distributed in factories all over the country”.

(3) Many managements made a sharp comparison between the workers who had been with the firm for many years and who were reliable and thorough and those who had come in since the war, and in many cases were “unemployable”. “They are in no hurry for the war to end and their good wages to stop. Most of them know they won't have work then, and they are not hurrying over the job. Earnings come long before patriotism with them. Who can blame them, really? It's our own slack policy coming home to roost. We've bred a race of unemployables”.

(4) Several managements pointed out that juveniles , earning high wages, were completely irresponsible about their work, knowing they would be called up before long. One case was mentioned of a boy who should come to work at 8 a.m.[Text Missing], turning up morning after morning at 9.30 a.m. and being paid £8 a week. All the managements who complained of bad time-keeping and absenteeism (15 altogether) stated that they could get little help from the National Service Officer, and that under the Essential Works Order the worker who was slack was protected, because he couldn't be got rid of without an order from the Ministry of Labour and National Service.

(5) Female labour was on the whole praised. “The women have come in because they want to work” stated one management. It was found that if they have the problems of children and shopping properly solved, they are conscientious and efficient workers, and well treated, respond more readily than men to suggestion and advice.

(6) Observer noticed the large number of young men , under 40, some under 30, who were in the managements of the factories visited.

(7) Observer also noticed a great wastage of female clerical staff in one or two factories. In Callard & Bowser, while waiting for an interview, she saw six young girls, under 25 in the two front offices talking, laughing, doing their hair and nails, and not a stroke of work for over half an hour. One had a typewriter in front of her, but never once touched its keys.

(8) Observer was struck by the thorough and efficient and careful way most of the essential factories were guarded . The Commissionaires were of a very good type, and most anxious to see all credentials, etc.

(9) The reactions of managements to a Government representative suddenly arriving to ask questions, etc., were interesting. Most were cordial, to the point, and perfectly frank. Several were hostile to the Government, accusing it of making their task more difficult, of wasting their time, of taking their men and women, of muddling and so on.... but were quite kind and cordial to Observer. One factory - Wreschner's - had quite another atmosphere. Furtiveness, unwillingness to allow Observer to speak to anyone (except the Assistant Works Manager - a very minor official in a small factory), or to speak to the workers, was marked.

(10) Finally, there was a very marked difference in atmosphere in factories which had Worker's Councils or in which the management worked closely with the men and had their friendly co-operation. Some managements did nothing but rail against the British worker; others praised him. Several made vague accusations against some unnamed managements, stating, that they had deliberately inflated their wage list to escape E.P.T., and that the workers in those factories had too little to do and were discontented. Observer was not qualified to notice whether this was going on in the 57 factories she visited.

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