A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

164 165 2 166 3

Home Intelligence Special Report No. 30

Public response to the “Your fuel target” advertisement, 23rd Aug :[Text Missing]

1st September 1942

1. Difficulties

Only a minority - “mathematically-minded or intelligent educated people” - appear to have succeeded in working out their target figure and in comparing it with their past consumption. Most of these are said to have found their allowance “unexpectedly low” and to doubt the possibility of keeping within it: “My ration will only last for six months”.

The people who did not work out their allowance were as follows:-

  1. Those who did not attempt to, because (i) “it was quite beyond an ordinary householder”; (ii) it was “too complicated; one could not bother to try to work it out as it seemed too much like hard work”.

  2. Those who “took paper and pencil and tried to work out how they would stand, but ‘gave up’ or had to give up at some particular step in the operation”. The working out of the total units allowed to the household appears to have been “comparatively easy”; then, the following difficulties arose:-

    1. The difficulty of dividing the Fuel units allowed amongst the different kinds of fuel when past consumption could not be calculated. Working-class people, particularly, keep little or no record of consumption: they pay cash for fuel delivered. In addition, those with penny-in-the-slot meters keep no record. It is also reported that some people who had records “found it too much trouble to look up old bills and receipts and gave up at this stage”.

    2. The difficulty of visualising what the unit total represents in actual fuel, “since fuel consumption has previously been calculated in pounds, shillings and pence - not in weight, cubic feet or units which mean nothing to many people”. People with slot meters also gauge consumption in “hours per coin”.

  3. Those who failed to understand some part of the advertisement itself: (i) confusion between electrical and fuel “units”; the word “points” would have been better, it is suggested. (ii) a few people did not grasp that all kinds of fuel and power were included in the allowance, “I shan't use four tons of coal in a year”.

  4. Those who failed to notice the advertisement or did not see it at all. In Scotland, amongst the working classes “few seemed to be aware that such a notice had appeared in the Press”. Some people are also said not to have read it in rural areas in the Midland Region and in the Eastern Region “a few individuals have, as usual, missed it”.

  5. People in Birmingham and district, where “coal is a very sore subject”. “How can we plan our consumption”, they are asking, “when we're never sure of being able to get coal”.

2. Criticisms

The following criticisms of the scheme have been made:-

(a) That no provision has been made in the advertisement for the following “special circumstances”:-

  1. Households with an invalid or a baby. Extra fuel, it is said, is required for washing, cooking, heating and probably additional lighting.

  2. Households with “old people who sit at home all day”.

  3. Households where one or two rooms are used for business purposes; “a special section was given to this on the fuel assessment form”.

  4. Households where more than one meal a day has to be cooked owing to shift work.

  5. Houses suffering from bomb damage, which are more difficult to heat on account of ill-fitting doors, windows etc.

  6. Large exposed houses in the open country which need more heating; houses in narrow streets which need more lighting.

  7. Households with Ascots and other gas or electricity systems which cannot now be replaced by systems more economical in fuel.

(b) That meter reading and checking up will be difficult for many working women. The usually “inaccessible position” of meters is remarked on.

(c) With the exception of “the favoured North”, there is some criticism of the differentiation between areas. “The cold part of Cheshire considers itself unfairly penalised”, and so do the Southern and South Eastern Regions: “winter can be just as severe down here as it is in the North”.

In addition to this, town people using gas and electricity think country people with coal and paraffin have “an easier task”; country people, on the other hand, think things are easier for town people “who can switch things off”.

(d) That rationing would be better, as “once again the selfish will get away with it”. There appears also to be some confusion as to whether this target advertisement is or is not rationing. According to a report from the South Western Region “the scheme introduces rationing and should have been passed by Parliament”.

(e) That the whole thing is unnecessary as we are a coal-producing country.

3. General effect

Whether understood or not, the advertisement appears to have encouraged economy in fuel consumption. People are “revising their fuel consumption, watching it more closely and cutting down when possible”. Some households, however, feel that they have already economised to the limit. Miners are the only section of the public quoted as “indifferent to the scheme and to economy”.

4. Suggestions

  1. That as regards gas, calculations should have been given in therms as well as in cubic feet.

  2. Units should be translated into pounds, shillings and pence, and these figures given out locally in the absence of a national scale of charges.

  3. That examples of actual amounts of hard fuel for an average household should be given; e.g. one bag of coal a week = 52 bags per year = so many fuel units. This would then show clearly how much would be left over for gas, electricity, paraffin etc.

  4. That approximate weekly fuel consumption of certain standard household appliances should be publicised. These appliances should include certain standard makes of gas and electricity cookers and water heaters, a single element electric stove, electric irons, vacuum cleaners etc.: “if housewives knew which were heaviest on fuel they could more easily cut down”.

  5. That firm measures should be taken to stop waste of fuel in shops, business premises, Government departments etc. “Otherwise the campaign will fail”.

We use cookies to track usage and preferences.

Privacy & Cookie Policy Accept & Close