A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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The Campaigns Division of the Ministry of Information wished to have some knowledge of the effect of its Fuel Target Campaign, conducted during August and September 1942, and the extent to which the advice given had been followed by householders.


In order to obtain these figures as speedily as possible the questions decided upon were incorporated in a longer questionnaire, concerning the lighting of dwellings, which was to be administered for the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. These questions were asked when certain measurements of lighting were being made, and so filled in a gap caused by the preparations for them. The tables arising from these questions have been presented with a minimum of explanatory matter. A copy of the questionnaire is appended. The questions aimed at three things firstly, to discover the extent to which housewives had familiarised themselves with the advertisements of the campaign and the method of calculating fuel expenditure which was advocated, secondly, the extent to which, they had put into practice certain hints on Fuel Economy and thirdly, whether it was appreciated that the fuel situation in the coming winter was likely to be serious and that it was necessary to make preparations to meet it. The, final question about stocks of fuels was designed to discover this.

The Sample.

Owing to its association with the lighting of dwellings inquiry the sample upon which this particular investigation was based was a somewhat specialized one consisting only of housewives inhabiting homes lit by electricity, living in urban surroundings, and belonging to three income groups which are represented roughly in equal numbers, and not as in the population. For this reason no totals are given in the tables showing income group analyses.

A total of 2,375 interviews was obtained. Analysis of these interviews in the relevant categories is as follows:-

Analysis by Income Group.

Wage of Chief Wage Earner.

1. Up to £3. 12. 0. 724
2. £3. 12. 0. - £5. 0. 0 890
3. £5. 0. 0. - £10. 0. 0 752
Unclassified 9

Analysis by Family Size

1. 1 - 3 Persons 1300
2. 4 - 7 Persons 977
3. 8 persons and over 93
Unclassified 5

This distribution is reasonably normal, although smaller families may be over-weighed.

Analysis by Region.

1. North 44
2. North East 241
3. North Midlands 187
4. Eastern 189
5. London 277
6. Southern 196
7. S. Western 161
8. Wales 183
9. Midlands 243
10. North Western 296
11. Scotland 248
12. S. Eastern 110

The North and London regions are somewhat under represented, the South and North East are somewhat over represented.

The towns in which the inquiry was carried out are as follows:-

Glassgow Norwich
Carlisle Maidstone
Edinburgh Reading
Dundee Oxford
Aberdeen Birmingham
Manchester Rugby
Bolton Tewkesbury
Lancaster Kidderminster
Stoke Wolverhampton
Newcastle Guildford
Middlesbrough Portsmouth
Leeds Salisbury
York Cardiff
Huddersfield Bristol
Sheffield Exeter
Leicester Plymouth
Nottingham Ebbw Vale
Derby Llanelly
Preston Swansea
Luton Rochester
Northampton Bromley
Lincoln Chatham
Ipswich London
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The Use of Fuel .

In the advertisements published by the Ministry of Information it was pointed out that most fuel was used for room heating and water heating, and not for cooking or lighting. In order to test the extent to which this had been recognised by housewives they were asked, without reference to the advertisements, which thing they used most fuel for, room heating, water heating, cooking, or lighting.

Table 1
Use most fuel for Up to £3.12.0. £3.12.0. to £5. £5.0.0. to £10.
No. % No. % No. %
Room heating 272 49 349 51 311 53
Water heating 34 6 33 5 58 10
Cooking 198 35 247 36 191 32
Lighting 56 10 57 8 31 5
Total 560 100 686 100 591 100
Not answered 164 - 204 - 161 -
Sample 724 - 890 - 752 -

Roughly half the housewives in each income group knew that room heating used most fuel, and there was a tendency for the better off groups to contain a greater proportion of housewives giving the correct answer.

In the first two income groups the four things are ranked in the same order, but in the last group water heating replaces lighting in third place, a reflection, perhaps of a greater use of hot water.

Fire-bricks .

The campaign advocated the use of fire-bricks, and housewives were asked whether they had them in use or not.

Table 2
Use fire-bricks Up to £3.12.0. £3.12.0. to £5. £5.0.0. to £10.
No. % No. % No. %
Yes 430 60 553 63 409 57
No 288 40 326 37 415 43
Total 718 100 879 100 724 100
Did not apply 5 - 4 - 12 -
Not answered 1 - 7 - 16 -
Sample 1244 - 890 - 752 -

There is no significant difference in the use of fire-bricks between the lowest income group and the others, but a difference does exist in the case of the two upper groups. Here the middle group seems to be most economically minded, and a greater proportion of the housewives in it use fire-bricks, 63% compared with 57% the upper income group.

It must be remembered that since we have no knowledge of the number using fire-bricks prior to publicity these figures cannot be related to the campaign. They have importance, however, as an indication of the extent to which this economy can be further advocated.

“Lagging” or Insulation .

Housewives were advised wherever possible to cover up their hot water tanks and pipes with old felt and newspaper to contain the heat. A question was put asking them whether they had done this.

Table 3
Analysed by Income Up to £3.12.0. £3.12.0. to £5. £5.0.0. to £10.
No. % No. % No. %
Yes 28 10 80 18 134 25
No 244 90 373 82 399 75
Total 272 100 453 100 533 100
Not answered 69 - 54 - 29 -
Did not apply (no tank) 383 - 383 - 190 -
Sample 724 - 890 - 752 -

The task is one of relatively greater difficulty if not expense than the purchase of fire-bricks, and the figures reflect this. The number in each income group who have lagged their tank is not high, but the greater proportions who have done so are in the two upper income groups. This trend is probably related to the earlier table which indicates that water heating was a matter of greater importance to the highest income group than to the lower groups.

The use of the oven.

It was advocated by the Ministry that an oven should never be used for one dish only. Housewives were asked whether they often had to use an oven for one dish only.

In this respect the cooking habits of the three groups are very similar. 13% 12% and 13% in each group often having to use their oven for one dish only.

This seems to be a fairly satisfactory figure, and is probably related to the campaigns carried out by the makers of gas ovens for the use of all available space in the oven on time saving grounds as well as on grounds of economy.

The use of the damper on the kitchen boiler .

Those who used a damper on their kitchen boiler were asked if they found it possible to keep it in most of the time.

Table 4
Analysed by Income Up to £3.12.0. £3.12.0. to £5. £5.0.0. to £10.
No. % No. % No. %
Yes 181 26 275 70 325 75
No 506 74 116 30 106 25
Total 687 100 391 100 431 100
Not answered 7 - 14 - 15 -
Did not apply (no tank) 30 - 485 - 306 -
Sample 724 - 890 - 752 -

It appears that the group which has the most dampers in use is the least able to keep them in most of the time. In the lowest income group only 2.6% can do so, compared with 70% and 75% in the highest income groups. Since it can be assumed that the lowest income group lives in the older and less well designed houses this is probably more a reflection of the impossibility of making sufficient use of a worn out heating system than of their readiness to economise on fuel. In the upper income groups the figures show the extent to which this particular economy can be advocated further.

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The Fuel Target campaign was an attempt to introduce a voluntary rationing scheme based on allowances worked out for a compulsory rationing scheme. The household had to take as its target for the coming year the fuel allowance, in terms of fuel units, it would have had under rationing scheme. It then had to ascertain what its present consumption of fuel was, (this can only be done from records), decide where it could best economise, and then translate the fuel units of its Target into terms of coal, coke, gas and electricity, in the proportions required. Finally a close check had to be kept on the gas and electricity meter dials, as well as the coal cellar, to see that the programme decided upon was being carried out in practice.

It was not easy to work out one’s fuel target therefore, and the position was complicated further by the fact that few households in the lower income groups, and not a great many in the upper income groups, have records of their total fuel expenditure.

The following table shows the number of households in each group in our sample which had solved the problem to their own satisfaction.

Table 5

Have you, or has anybody in your family, worked out your fuel target?

Analysed by Income Up to £3.12.0. £3.12.0. to £5. £5.0.0. to £10.
No. % No. % No. %
Yes 56 8 112 13 167 23
No 653 92 755 87 550 77
Total 709 100 867 100 717 100
Not answered 15 - 23 - 35 -
Sample 724 - 890 - 752 -

The proportion of families in each group which have been able to work out their fuel target ascends from 8% in the lowest group, through 13% in the middle group to 23% in the highest income group. These figures are probably a reflection of the complications mentioned above the greater use of bills for gas and electricity and coal, in the upper income group, and one other major factor. It is possible that those in the lower income groups feel that they are already using as little fuel as possible under the pressure of economic circumstances, and do not, therefore, consider that they are in a position to economise further. In such circumstances there is no incentive for them to work out their fuel target.

Table 6

Do YOU know how many fuel units you have got?

Analysed by Income Up to £3.12.0. £3.12.0. to £5. £5.0.0. to £10.
No. % No. % No. %
Yes 24 43 40 35 84 52
No 32 57 70 65 77 48
Total 56 100 110 100 161 100
Not answered - - 2 - 6 -
Sample 56 - 112 - 167 -

This table summarises the extent to which individual housewives knew what their Fuel Target was. It is complicated by the small numbers involved. The margin of error, calculated as two standard deviations, shows that there is no significant difference between the numbers of housewives knowing their Fuel Target in group oneand group two, and group one and group three. There is a significant difference between group two and group three, however, showing that a somewhat greater proportion of housewives in the upper income group had personal knowledge of their fuel target compared with group two.

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Housewives were asked what fuel they had stored for the winter and in what quantity, in order to discover whether it had been appreciated that the coal situation might become serious during the winter and that preparations should be made to meet it.


Table 7
Analysed by Income Up to £3.12.0. £3.12.0. to £5. £5.0.0. to £10.
No. % No. % No. %
None 145 22 127 16 91 13
Up to 5 cwt. 186 28 155 19 73 11
Over 5 cwt. 252 37 418 51 431 62
Quantity unspecified 92 14 121 15 97 14
Total 675 100 821 100 692 100

A considerable number in each group had no stocks, the largest number being in the lowest income group (21.5%) and least number in the highest income group 13.2%. When possession of stocks of over five hundred weight is computed the trend is reversed. In the lowest income group 50.9% have stocks of over 5 cwt. 65.6% in group 2 and 76.3% in group 3.


Table 8
Analysed by Income Up to £3.12.0. £3.12.0. to £5. £5.0.0. to £10.
No. % No. % No. %
None 667 99 809 99 642 93
Up to 5 cwt. 3 .5 5 .5 14 2
Over 5 cwt. 2 - 5 .5 25 4
Quantity unspecified 3 .5 2 - 11 1
Total 675 100 821 100 692 100

Stocks are extremely small, and socially highly concentrated. Most are held by the upper income group 97%, of whom 5% have stocks over 5 cwt. This probably reflects a greater use of stoves, and hot water, and probably a wider distribution of heat than by coal fire, in the upper income group.

Anthracite and Coalite.

Stocks of these fuels are negligible, these of anthracite repeating the pattern of coke, and those of coalite being almost non-existent.

Analysis by Family Size .

There are no appreciable differences between family sizes in possession of any of the four fuels, coal, coke, anthracite and coalite.

Analysis by Region.

This is in many ways the most important analysis, since it has a direct bearing on distribution. The table given is not wholly satisfactory, however, since the numbers involved in some of the regions are so small as to be of little value. For that reason no regional analyses of other fuel stocks than coal have been made.

Table 9 - Coal
None Up to 5 cwt. Over 5 cwt. Quantity Unspecified Total
No. % No. % No. % No. % No. %
Northern 8 19 5 12 23 55 6 14 42 100
North Eastern 40 17 17 7 114 48 67 28 238 100
North Midland 29 17 23 14 118 69 - - 170 100
Eastern 23 13 40 22 112 61 9 4 184 100
London 87 33 56 21 112 43 7 3 262 100
Southern 9 6 30 19 118 74 2 1 159 100
South Western 22 14 16 10 36 23 83 53 157 100
Wales 36 22 39 24 44 27 45 27 164 100
Midlands 10 5 27 12 148 68 33 15 218 100
North Western 51 18 71 25 153 55 6 2 281 100
Scotland 42 19 73 34 62 28 41 19 218 100
South Eastern 7 6 20 19 66 65 11 10 104 100
All Region 364 16 417 19 1106 51 310 14 2197 100

It appears that London has the highest proportion of households with no stocks at all, 33%, followed by Wales 22%, the North 19%, Scotland 19% and the North West 18%.

The Midland region has the lowest proportion without stocks, 5%, followed by the South 6% and South East 6%, and the East, well behind with 13%.

Size of stocks in the regions can be compared by taking the proportions holding over 5 cwt, in each region. This procedure is complicated, however, by the high proportion of quantities unspecified in some regions. If it can be assumed that these stocks are unspecified because they are large, that is to say, because the housewife is unable to estimate how much she really has, then it can be further assumed that these stocks are over 5 cwt. In those circumstances the best stocked regions would be the Midlands, 83%, South West and North East, 76%, closely followed by South and South East, 75% each. Without this adjustment the first five best stocked regions would be South 74%, North Midland 69%, Midlands 68%, South East 65% and Eastern 61%. Three out of these five, Midlands, South East, and South are to be found in the first list, and may be regarded as certainly the three best stocked regions.

The worst stocked regions, that is, those with the highest proportion having under 5 cwt. are Scotland 34%, North West 25%, and Wales 24%.

By combining these rankings of the regions without stocks, and the regions with high stocks and low stocks, it would appear, even allowing for considerable margins of error due to the small figures, that the best-off regions are the Midlands, South, and South East, and the worst-off Scotland, the North West and Wales, the three last being large coal bearing areas.

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If one considers where further persuasion and advice should be directed it appears that in three respects at least a sufficient proportion of the population remains unaffected by publicity to make further efforts worth while.

1. Use of Fuel. Nearly half the population of each group is still unaware that room heating and water heating use more fuel than anything else, or remain unconvinced of the fact.

2. “Lagging” or insulation. Three-quarters of the better off group and 90% of the worst off group have still not attempted to insulate their water heating system. Since it is a task which can be carried out by the householder, there is room for a considerable advance on these proportions.

3. Use of the Damper. It is possible that if the effects of the damper were more widely publicised, and a rough estimate of different speeds of consumption of fuel with the damper in or out were given the effect would be to restrict the use of the damper even more.

Fuel Target.

It cannot he said from the evidence of this inquiry that the Fuel Target campaign was a great success, and a B. I. P. 0. inquiry also showed that only 16% of the population had troubled to work out a fuel target. There are considerable inherent difficulties in the scheme, such as lack of solid fuel consumption records, inability to read electricity and gas meters + , and the problem of converting fuel units into equivalent quantities of coal, electricity and gas, which make an accurate Fuel Target an impossibility in many cases, and its use, an ideal only in many others.

Storage of Coal.

Taking into consideration the time of the year, the fact that nearly half the two lower income groups had stores of over 5 cwt., seems to suggest that the position could be regarded as reasonably satisfactory. There is no doubt, however, that the ability to purchase in quantity, which is often linked with capacity to store in quantity, gives the higher income groups a much more favourable position, which is enhanced by the greater flexibility of their heating systems. The low income groups, particularly the lowest, who are the small consumers and accustomed to frequent deliveries of small quantities, ++ are therefore the chief problem of any distribution scheme.

[1] In an Inquiry carried out in May 1942, 70% of the sample said they had never taken meter readings, although of these 83% thought they could learn.

[2] In an Inquiry into Heating of Dwellings in March 1942 it was discovered that in the equivalent to the low income group about 50% of the households concerned took delivery in 1 to 2 cwts, and a further 30% in 3 to 5 cwts. at a time.

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