A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46




1.0 Purpose of the Survey

This Survey has been undertaken for the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee of the Department of Health for Scotland and arises out of a recommendation made in a memorandum by the Department of Health for Scotland which was presented in October 1942. This memorandum made the following suggestion, amongst others, that evidence might be obtained by a survey carried out by the Wartime Social Survey: -

“As regards a scientific survey of public opinion in general, the Sub-Committee may know of the work already done in many important fields on behalf of the Government by the Wartime Social Survey who have a number of investigators specially trained in this type of work and have evolved suitable techniques of survey covering a wide range of subjects. The Wartime Social Survey have carried out special inquiries on behalf of some of the technical committees referred to in paragraphs 13 & 14 in connection with the heating and lighting of dwellings, Copies of the results of these surveys which are now being examined ,by the technical committees concerned are available for those members of the Sub-Committee who wish to see them. The final results of the surveys will be made available to the Sub-Committee at a later date. It is understood that if the Sub-Committee would like a survey of public opinion to be undertaken on the question of housing standards and the equipment of houses, etc., the Wartime Social Survey will be very glad to place their services at the disposal of the Sub-Committee and if this offer is accepted by the Sub-Committee the Department will be glad to make the necessary arrangements.”

This recommendation was primarily directed to the Sub-Committee on Housing Design for whom a small supplementary inquiry was undertaken. The Sub-Committee on the distribution of houses, however, asked for a larger survey to be made to provide data to assist in the solution of some of the problems of siting houses and the creation of new communities. The framework within which the committees operate is described in the Introductory Section of the Department of Health for Scotland memorandum to the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee. This is given below:-

“1. The Department of Health for Scotland are the Central Department responsible for the administration of the Housing (Scotland) Acts. Under these Acts County Councils and the Town Councils of all burghs are charged with the duty of reviewing from time to time the housing conditions in their areas and of submitting for the approval of the Department proposals for the provision of such new houses as may be necessary for the working classes in those areas. The powers of local authorities to provide and to assist in the provision of new houses are contained in Parts III and IV of the Housing (Scotland) Act, 1925, and include powers to acquire land, either by agreement or compulsorily by means of compulsory purchase orders approved by the Department, to erect houses on the land or to sell or lease it on condition that houses are built on it, to assist in the provision of houses by laying out and providing services upon land sold or leased and to make loans, on such conditions as may be approved by the Department, to housing associations and private persons building new working-class houses.

2. Exchequer subsidies are payable to local authorities under the Housing (Scotland) Acts in respect of new houses provided by them to replace unfit houses, to relieve overcrowding and to meet the needs of the agricultural population. In order to qualify for these subsidies the local authorities must submit to the Department for approval the site, layout and type plans and specifications of the houses and the houses must conform to standards laid down by the Department regulating the sizes of rooms, etc.

Houses erected by private enterprise are not subject to the control of the Department unless they are built with assistance from the Exchequer - at present confined to new houses built for the agricultural population in replacement of unfit houses - or with the aid of loans. In either case payment is made through the local authority in accordance with a scheme approved by the Department. Such schemes, which are normally based on a model scheme recommended by the Department, stipulate the conditions to which houses erected under the scheme with Exchequer assistance, or with aid of loans, must conform and cover such matters as overall area, room sizes, sanitary facilities, press accommodation, etc.

In preparing proposals for the provision of houses local authorities are (Scotland) Act, 1930, as amended by Section 28 of the Housing (Scotland) Act, 1935, to have regard to artistic quality in the layout planning and treatment of the houses to be provided, to the beauty of the landscape or countryside and to the other amenities of the locality and must comply with any directions in that behalf that may be given to them by the Department. And under Section 75(2) of the Housing (Scotland) Act, 1935, the authorities may, and if required by the department, must appoint local advisory committees including representatives of architectural and other artistic interests to advise them in carrying out the foregoing duties. So far no local authority has appointed an advisory committee under these provisions.

4. From the foregoing paragraphs it will be seen that the Department are in a position to influence the planning and layout of the houses provided by local authorities. In practice, however, the Department’s Powers have not been wholly effective and various considerations, e.g., the need for providing houses quickly and the absence of planning schemes have resulted in many cases in indifferent design, layout and siting of houses. If the houses of the future are to be well designed and properly laid out a new impetus will be necessary and the Department, the local authorities and architectural interests will have to co-operate on a new and closer basis.”

The scope of the Committee’s discussion was not confined to houses erected by local authorities, but also covered houses provided by housing associations and private enterprise generally. Thus the survey was designed to provide basic information to cover the whole field of the location of future dwellings.

The Sub-Committee on the distribution of houses prepared a memorandum which they submitted to the Wartime Social Survey for consideration. It was based on four broad concepts - the family, the home, the community and interests as being the main factors which were relevant to the problem of planning the distribution of new houses or the planning of new communities.

1.1 A Pilot inquiry on these lines was carried out for a period of about five weeks during which the Survey had many discussions with the Sub-Committee. A final scheme based on the experience of the pilot and the discussion with the Sub-Committee was then worked out.

The questionnaire to which the Sub-Committee gave its final approval did however, omit certain topics that the Survey would have preferred to have included, particularly a number of questions in relation to the husband’s interests including the question, “The Use of the Public House”, which was considered impolitic by the Committee. In general the Survey would have preferred a larger number of questions about interests and more strict parallelism between the interest questions addressed to the husband and the wife.

In addition to the discussion with the Sub-Committee very valuable assistance was rendered by the staff of the Department of Health for Scotland, particularly those members concerned with architecture and town planning. Many of the Housing Authorities of Scottish cities and towns also gave the Survey valuable assistance in planning the survey.

1.2 Approach

The approach of town planning studies in the past has been historical, that is to say, based on a study of the development of existing urban communities in the past in relation to defence, economic life and social life, or the approach has been aesthetic, nostalgic and vaguely medical as in the case of the garden city approach, but until recently little use has been made of the science of sociology to provide basic data for community planning. What has been done has been mainly based on the statistics of local authorities in relation to administrative costs of urban units of different sizes, or on the use of public transport statistics and other administrative data.

The method of studying the behaviour patterns which are related to the home and community of groups of citizens has not previously been attempted in this country although in America a similar Survey was carried out a little before the present Scottish Inquiry. Results however were unfortunately not available in time to allow the Wartime Social Survey to use the experience that the Americans had gained. 1

1 “Urban Planning and public Opinion” - National Survey Research Investigation by Melville C. Branch, Jr. Director, The Bureau of Urban Research. The Bureau of Urban Research, Princeton University, Princeton, N.J. 1942.

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