Government’s return to imperial set to make UK a laughing stock

Yesterday, the Government published its response to the so-called TIGRR report. It was reported in some newspapers as announcing the return of pounds and ounces.

As previously reported by Metric Views, in June this year, the Government’s Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform (TIGRR) had recommended the return of imperial weights and measures, citing the inability of traders to choose which measurement system they use as being “an example of overly prescriptive EU regulation”. This assessment of Weights and Measures law is of course misguided.

In order to protect consumers, the UK, and the vast majority of other countries around the world permit the use of only one system of weights and measures for trade. Any ability of traders to choose different weights and measures from their competitors will always adversely affect a consumer’s ability to compare prices, and thus leave them open to unfair practices. The best way to maximise consumer protection has always been for every trader to use the same system of weights and measures. This is a principle that has been with us since Magna Carta.

In what has previously been described by some, misleadingly, as “taking back control” of our laws from unelected bureaucrats, it is ironic that a statement, that included the Government’s plans for weights and measures legislation, was delivered in the unelected House of Lords by the unelected Minister of State, Lord Frost, on Thursday.

The Government’s response to the TIGRR report, entitled Brexit opportunities: regulatory reforms, could be described as a solution in search of a problem. What few proposals there are have a general theme of removing consumer protections, or otherwise appear to be plans to change for the sake of change, seemingly to deliberately create divergence from common standards that we have previously agreed with our European neighbours. A short statement on weights and measures is included:

“Review EU restrictions on selling in pounds and ounces – We will review the EU ban on markings and sales in imperial units and legislate in due course.”

This was reported in The Times, on the same day, in an article entitled, Pounds and ounces return in victory for metric martyrs, in the following terms:

“Under plans unveiled by ministers today it will once again become legal for market stalls, shops and supermarkets to sell their goods using only Britain’s traditional weighing system.”

In his statement to the House of Lords, Lord Frost spoke of introducing a “one-in-two-out system” to reduce the quantity of legislation. However, the proposal to add imperial weights and measures to existing metric measures, stands that approach on its head, with the adoption of “one-out-two-in” weights and measures legislation.

Whether the Government go through with this retrograde step in consumer protection remains to be seen.

It is clear that no impact assessment of a return to imperial measures has been carried out. Inevitably, there would be considerable costs:

  • New imperial scales would need to be purchased by traders, which would in turn need to be tested and stamped by trading standards officers, who would need the necessary imperial calibration equipment.
  • Imperial scales have not been authorised since the 20th century. Trading standards officers would need to be trained in the certification of imperial scales.
  • There is a national shortage of Weights and Measures inspectors. This is a bad time to be creating needless work for existing staff.
  • Would there be a public information campaign? The majority of people in the UK have no experience of imperial units when shopping.
  • And last, but not least, our country’s reputation would take a massive hit. It is clear from the enormous backlash to this proposal on social media last night, that this is already making our country a laughing stock.

References:

Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform independent report – 2021-06-16
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/994125/FINAL_TIGRR_REPORT__1_.pdf

Brexit opportunities: regulatory reforms – 2021-09-16
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1018386/Brexit_opportunities-_regulatory_reforms.pdf

The Times – Pounds and ounces return in victory for metric martyrs – 2021-09-16
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/scales-of-justice-tilt-towards-the-metric-martyr-638vfn655

Author: UK Metric Association

For a single, rational system of measurement

36 thoughts on “Government’s return to imperial set to make UK a laughing stock”

  1. So this is Global Britain is it? The only country in the World that has gone backwards in the abandoning the international system of weights and measures, I do hope that this is a mistake the media has made, because if this is true then nobody will ever take the UK seriously ever again, yes I’m aware that the US Myanmar and Liberia also use the imperial system or a similar system, but none of those countries have adopted a measurement system then gone backwards, well apart from when the US tried in the 70s and abandoned it, but the UK’s situation is more embarrassing because it’s 2021 and we are about to go back to the dark ages of measuring.

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  2. This just shows how out of touch and backward thinking that some of our political leaders are. They have taken this ‘Brexit opportunity’ to try and score points from a debate that they lost in the 1970’s. They don’t seem to understand that the world has moved on and that the the vast majority of people simply don’t understand what lbs and oz’s are.
    When this story broke, I went straight to the comments in the Daily Mail and was very amused and reassured to discover that the majority are against this quite ridiculous and pointless idea. In fact, most of their comments would not be out of place on this forum.

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  3. I am in total agreement about the farcical nature of this proposal, and I think a lot of the rest of the UK population is also likely to be scratching their heads. But we need to understand that ‘rationality’ and ‘politics’ are completely separate concepts, always have been, always will be. The current Nationalist government doesn’t care about rationality – just votes. And they know that a large part of their electorate (older people, not particularly well educated, nostalgic for Empire) will be cheering them to the rafters for this proposal. Plus they know that it’s an excellent divisive measure to expand their ‘culture wars’ – in this case, Glorious Sovereign Global Imperial Measures vs. dirty foreign socialist tyrants’ mumbo-jumbo measures. You can be sure that this issue will dominate headlines for months to come – a conflict which is exactly what the Nationalists want.

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  4. Steve: I think you could be right in saying that this is a ruse to appeal to not-well-educated older people who have a bit of money in their pockets now from rising house prices and who vote Tory as a result. Particularly the ‘red wall’ voters. I think this is a ruse in the run-up to an early election with precisely these people in mind. It is interesting that no final date or reporting date has been announced for this ‘measure’ so it can be allowed to lie out in the open until after the next election, when, I think, it will be quietly binned.

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  5. I entirely agree with the points made above, and I would like to say a bit about the pint of beer. Wine and spirits are now served, by law, in metric quantities. In the case of wine, the quantities are 125 ml, 175, ml and 250 ml (or multiples thereof within reason). There is thus a good gradation of sizes of drinks available. In the case of beer, there is poorer gradation; effectively beer is sold in multiples of half a pint.
     
    I visited Australia a few years ago. There the system for serving beers gives much better gradation. I forget the exact quantities but it is similar to the way we serve wines, but on a larger scale. Time for a reform I think. We could introduce a litre glass here (I once enjoyed a litre of beer in an American bar, believe it or not) and could phase in other sizes, e.g. 300 ml and 600 ml.
     
    Now for the idea of reintroducing that crown. Personally I don’t give a toss whether the size of a glass is certified by a crown or some some other marking. What I do object to is the idiotic way in which beer is served in a container only just big enough to contain the prescribed quantity. I know of no other liquid sold this way. Oversized glasses are permitted in private clubs but not in public bars (unless beer is pre-measured at the pumps but this is uncommon nowadays). Oversized glasses,with marking to indicate when full, would permit a properly measured quantity but also allow room for a head, which most drinkers like to see; it makes a statement about the quality of the drink. At present it is Hobson’s choice, either a head with short measure or full measure with no head. That is full measure provided you manage not to spill any. In practice beer is spilt, especially later at night, making the floors slippery and hazardous. But when did Health and Safety regulations bear any relation to real-life common sense?

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  6. It is EMBARRASSING more for me, as a citizen of the US that we’re always the nation that’s singled out as the weirdo, recalcitrant, ignorant and buffoonish outlier nation that is the EXCEPTION when the subject of metrication is brought up. A message to all my UK global brothers and sisters – no matter HOW far back in antiquity and obscurity BoJo’s is trying to regress your nation, you will never be as mired in antiquation and obsolescence as the backwards, stubborn and stupid colonists across the pond. We are yottametres behind the world and I hope it comes back to bite us hard in the backside.

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  7. Lee Kelly,
    Nobody has taken the UK seriously for decades. So maybe the leaders of the UK have decided to get even by being spiteful.

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  8. Just found a blog post from NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology in the USA) updated just under a year ago about metrication in the USA:
    https://www.nist.gov/blogs/taking-measure/busting-myths-about-metric-system
    As for Myanmar (Burma) there has been an effort there to metricate since the early two thousand teens, so the ball is rolling there although the situation is reportedly muddled. Same for Liberia but not much information is available from there on metrication that I can find.
    And there is this update from a little over two years ago on Statista, which calls itself a “Business Data Platform”:
    https://www.statista.com/chart/18300/countries-using-the-metric-or-the-imperial-system/
    The biggest drag on the world metricating fully is the USA, but the UK muddle certainly doesn’t help and the current Tory government just makes things worse. Shall we call it a “megamuddle”???

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  9. Paul, I am sorry you feel embarrassed. Please hear my take on this. I regard the USA as a progressive nation, with a lot going for it, thanks mainly to certain innovative industrial elements within, though, overall, the mindset of its people is traditional.
     
    Yes, most groceries on sale in food markets are still measured in imperial. We must bear in mind that, for trading purposes, the USA has been largely self-sufficient, until recently at any rate, and has not needed to rely on imports. Therefore it has had less need to adopt metric for international trade.
    It is not completely isolated from international trade of course. Bottles of wine there are sold in 750 mm measures, just like the rest of the world. It is no coincidence that its huge California wine products are world famous.
     
    One industry that has promoted successfully international standards is the Ford motor company, which in the 1970s made a well-publicised exercise on standardising on ISO metric nuts and bolts. Other car makers followed this lead, and these metric sizes are readily available in USA retail outlets.
     
    During one of my visits there I have visited NASA – not just the exhibition area but also the behind-the-scenes research and development area. I can say that in there, metric and SI units are employed to the Nth degree.
     
    If we look at weather, then tradition appears to rule, with Fahrenheit used for temperatures. This works well with those weather maps you see in newspapers, with bands showing temperature ranges across the nation (50s, 60s, 70s, etc.) If these were to be expressed in Celsius, then either the bands would need to be wider or they would need to contain ranges of 5 rather than 10 – less effective. (Though Canada seems to manage.)
    I think it the case that USA recognises the metric system, but does not yet feel ready to make the change in many sectors. I feel that it will change when it is ready. Based on my own perception of how it operates, I guess then when it does change it will do so in an organised and systematic manner. Not like the half-hearted, wishy-washy, comprising, stalling, messy way it has happened over here.

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  10. @Metricmac
    One important step forward that the USA can make easily is to allow for metric only labeling on packages. Right now the FPLA (Fair Packaging and Labeling Act) *requires* both US Customary (our version of “Imperial”) and metric. However, a hopeful sign is that I have seen some packages here with metric *first* showing a sensible quantity (ending in zero) followed by a US Customary value in parentheses with an oddball looking but accurate converted value. Once the FPLA is amended to *allow* metric only (no coercion), more and more packages will drop US Customary and fill packages to a sensible looking quantity, thus gradually raising the awareness and acceptance of metric in the USA.
    That is just a first step; nonetheless, we here will still need larger Democratic party majorities in Congress to overcome the resistance of the main food industry group and their lobbyists. Let’s hope that happens in the not-too-distant future (so I can live to see it!)

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  11. Here are a few links about this proposal, many negative comments:
    Brexit Benefit* Found – Back To The Imperial Measurement System!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1KqJuHKYGM
    Brexit Media Take on Return to Imperial Measures
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVOYkXFc-eM
    UK SEMI-METRICATION MADNESS: British Weights and Measures Explained:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ia3QIFhyNWs
    I am really flabbergasted about such a retrograde step: pure nationalist populism! Is this Global Britain? Just go to New Zealand, that is a very British country, but it is metric!
    This is a repeat of what happened in France under Napoleon in 1812!
    Go to the UKMA website and try to spread the information about the important British contributions to the metric system found under ‘British scientists’. We know that the blueprint of the metric system was drawn up in 1682 in Britain and much more. The Brexiteer nationalist anti-metric nonsense can easily be blown out of the water.

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  12. Not “easily” blown out of the water I’m afraid, Han… Brexit voters are set in their ways, and truly believe that irrational divergence from the rest of the world is more important than sensible progress towards rational global standards. And the Tories (or indeed any UK party) only needs 40% of the vote (typically 25-27% of the electorate) to get a majority in Parliament.

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  13. If the government are so keen to de-regulate, in addition to allowing goods to be priced\sold in lb and oz, they should also abolish the pint\half pint for beer and cider (and milk).
    Allow publicans to use the word pint as a description only. There could be a simple regulation that states that the pub or restaurant has to clearly display what size of measure, in ml, will be served when a customer asks for ‘a pint’.
    I wager that many pubs will quickly adopt a standard ‘pint’ of 500 ml – and they’ll keep the price unchanged of course!

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  14. Most people young and old in this country and in particular children use imperial measures for their height, weight, bicycle and wheel size. When they inflate their tyres they will use PSI. For fast food their pizzas will be ordered in inches. They are making an informed choice. No one is advocating the replacement of one system over the other. There is a place for both. I have used both systems for fifty years in industry without any problem.

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  15. @Simon
    I haven’t found any good explanation anywhere as to why it is *advantageous* to use 2 systems of measurement instead of one. However, having 2 systems opens the possibility of mistakes (as was the case with the famous Gimli Glider incident where many people could have died and the loss of the very expensive Mars Climate Orbiter).
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gimli_Glider
    (The Board of Inquiry found fault with Air Canada procedures, training, and manuals. The Board recommended the immediate conversion of all Air Canada aircraft from Imperial units to metric units since a mixed fleet was more dangerous than an all-Imperial or an all-metric fleet.)
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Climate_Orbiter
    (The spacecraft encountered Mars on a trajectory that brought it too close to the planet so it was either destroyed in the atmosphere or escaped the planet’s vicinity and entered into an orbit around the Sun. An investigation attributed the failure to a measurement mismatch between the two software systems: metric units used by NASA and US Customary (imperial or “English”) units used by the spacecraft builder, Lockheed Martin.)

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  16. I am a health and safety consultant and having also been in the airline industry, so I have some understanding with these issues. The needs of science and engineering have always been very different to other trades. I would like to refer you to the select committee report of 1862. All the leading engineers of the day were fully supportive of the new metric system. It was agreed that trial of the metric would commence, with a view to going fully metric. Problems arose with the views of the small traders and the general public. A leading astronomer of the dat summed it up. The problem with the metric system is that there is nothing between the centimetre and the metre to fill the gap. The foot provides the means to fill that gap.
    The incidents you mention should not happen again, because we have in place Risk assessments and method statements to prevent this happening.
    Let the people decide as they did in 1862 which measure they use that best reflects the career path they choose in life.

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  17. Hello, Ezra. Re your post of Sep 19:
     
    I am not impressed by the NIST web page. It reminds me of the propaganda put out by the British Metrication Board in the late 1960s. That organisation had its aims in the right place but was not successful in getting the message across to the general public.
     
    The world map sets things down as if in black and white. (That is metaphorically speaking, green and pale blue actually) Three countries are not metric; the rest of the world is. We know it is not as clear cut as this. See also my comments on Statista, further down.
     
    I disagree with the degree Celsius being included as an SI unit. The SI unit for temperature is the Kelvin. The degree Celsius is closely related to this but is actually an arbitrary scale, based on the freezing and boiling points of water.
    The Statista web page makes more sense, and here we have a world map with a third state – a mixed state for the UK. This again does not paint an accurate picture. Metrication progress in the UK is actually well past half-way, but there are still some glaring anomalies, notably road distance signage. However at least the word “mainly” in the key improves the perspective and the article does go on to mention some vestiges of imperial measures in some ostensibly metric countries.

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  18. Another thing I don’t like about the NIST site is talking about units like the second being SI, so metric by implication. Or the suggestion that imperial units have metric definitions. This is just an academic point, of interest mainly to the National Physics Laboratory and university research departments. What we need to concentrate on is identifying what still needs to be changed and how best to go about the change.

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  19. “The problem with the metric system is that there is nothing between the centimetre and the metre to fill the gap”. Why is that a problem? Why not say “30cm” instead “a foot”? Do they have a need to use “feet” in Australia and New Zealand? I don’t think they do – perhaps only older people. Or indeed do people “need” an intermediate unit approximating to 30cm in any other countries which weren’t previously British colonies? Not that I’ve heard of – I stand to be corrected if anyone knows better.
    The reality is that running two different measuring systems simultaneously in the same society *will* continue to cause misunderstandings and mistakes – sometimes trivial, sometimes annoying, sometimes expensive, sometimes catastrophic. At the very least it imposes completely unnecessary costs on businesses and government.
    The reason metric is blatantly obviously the best system is that humans have 10 fingers and toes. That’s why our numbering system is decimal, and why our measuring system is (should be) the same as well. Having a numbering system based on decimal, but a measuring system based on 3, 12, 14, 16, or 1760 is bizarre and irrational.
    But politics is, has always been, and will always be, irrational. The only thing that matters is what will get votes.

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  20. Simon,
    Since 1862, the majority of industries world-wide have adopted the metric system and not one has found a need for a unit to exist between the millimetre (the standard in industry) and the metre. They use only the millimetre and it works for all. The centimetre and the decimetre are in-between but no one seems to see a real need for them.
    The claim made that the foot perfectly fills the gap was made up by Luddites looking for an excuse not to learn something new and better. 150 plus years later we still have those living on the fringes of industry and technology still making the same claim.
    There is no need for two systems, just one and that one system needs to be SI, the system based on physics and nature and used by the majority world-wide. All that happens when two systems are used is confusion and error. It also gives the countries that are using only the metric system the opportunity to advance the quickest to the top while those struggling with two systems or more are slipping quickly to the bottom.

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  21. Have a look at another example in this BBC article (just past halfway) : https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-58687026
    “One petrol station in Stockport sold 5,280 gallons (24,000 litres) of fuel on Friday, compared with 1,760 gallons (8,000 litres) on the same day the previous week.”
    What! Did the petrol station report that it had sold 5,280 gallons, or did it report that it had sold 24,000 litres? I am 100% certain that it’s the latter, which begs the question – who is it decided to make the conversion, and why? Furthermore, why did the imperial measurement move to the primary position, with the originally-reported figure in brackets?
    You haven’t even been able to buy petrol in gallons anywhere in the UK for at least 20 years!
    Who is leaning on the BBC to start ramping up imperial measurements everywhere? * Do we really have to guess * ?

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  22. I lived in South Africa during its metrication program and then moved to the United Kingdom. There were a number of differences between the South African and British program.
    Firstly, the South African metrication board reported to the Prime Minister so its mandate spanned all ministries while the British metrication board was part of the Department of Trade and Industry so it had no authority over the Treasury, Department of Transport or Department of Education.
    Secondly, in South Africa the Government assisted those companies that had to renew their measuring equipment whereas in Britain, the costs were “borne where they fell” (ie, the Government was paying as little as possible and nobody could force the Treasury to cough up). Had the UK Government subsidised the cost of new weighing devices for market traders, they could have taken the wind out of the so-called “Metric Martyrs’” sails.
    Thirdly, the South African Government made it illegal for any retail outlet to sell measuring equipment that was calibrated in imperial units. In the UK, tapes measures are still manufactured in a way that makes it easier to read the imperial units than to read the metric units.
    I believe that the Australian and New Zealand experience was similar to South Africa’s

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  23. @Steve
    Leaving aside that the “gallon” cited in the BBC article is not the same size as the gallon used in the USA (which adds another layer of confusion — should school children in the UK now learn 3 systems of measurement: metric, Imperial, and US Customary?), we can rightly ask if the UK should abandon the current grotestque sudivision of the pound into 100 pence (reminiscent of the execrable Celsius system of 0 degrees for freezing of water and 100 degrees for the boiling of water at 1 atmosphere — horrific!) and instead revert its money to pounds, shillings, and pence? Surely, having the pound subdivided into only 100 basic units (pence) as is the case now does not provide the granularity that the UK used to have when citizens had at their disposal the old system of 12 pence per shilling and 20 shillings per pound. Those who advocate even parallel use of Imperial with metric really ought to be advocating for the return of the old £/s/d money as well. No cherry picking allowed if one is to be totally honest!

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  24. Modernman, re your post of Sep 22:
     
    I saw this sort of thing when I was in Australia a few years ago. There, beers, etc. are sold in a sensible range of metric measures, but the word “pint” is occasionally loosely used for a measure that is near that value. We can’t readily legistate against people using loose phrases as long as the official measures are firmly defined, and this is not really a problem.
     
    However I would not go along with redefining imperial measures in round metric terms. We had a problem like that in the timber trade in the 1970s. Timber was sold in multiple lengths of 0·3 metre, so this would be unofficially described as a foot. This caused numerous complaints of being sold short measure.
     
    Nowadays in DIY stores timber is described accurately and exclusively in metric and there is no problem at all. It is not so much a case of what customers pays as it is of their getting what they want. If they get something less than what they want it may be unsuitable for purpose.

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  25. Hello Simon. You mention children using imperial measures. This is probably something they have picked up from their parents. We are not doing children, with most of their lives ahead of them, any favours by cluttering up their minds with these obsolescent measurements. They are making ill-informed choices because they have not received forward-looking guidelines.
     
    You mention height and weight. In their dealings with the NHS metric units will be used, so it is in their interest to be familiar with these measurements in metric. Body mass index is height squared divided by weight. This is calculated in metric for a good reason. Would you like to explain to me how to calculate the square of 5 feet 8½ inches? You may use a calculator if you wish.
     
    You mention bicycle wheels. The “inch” equivalent of many of these wheel sizes are nominal and based on pre-war standards, when tyres were much fatter. Slimmer tyres bacame more popular but had to fit the same sized rims as the older type, so diameters became smaller but were still described the old way. For example, take a tyre marked 28″ x 1¼”, as could well be fitted to a touring bike. Measure its diameter and you find it is only 27 inches. The ISO size, which has been marked on all bike tyres for many years, is 32-622 for this sized tyre. These are the tyre thickness and rim diameter in millimetres, and are accurate and correct. The overall diameter can easily be derived, in this case 686 mm.
     
    The so-called gear-inch method of comparing gearing of different bikes is hopelessly out of date. It does not even take pedal crank length into consideration, and has the demerit that the formula relies on inacurate input data. A better way to compare gearing is velocity ratio (which incidentally works in both metric and imperial – it is dimensionless), which does take account of crank length.
     
    You mention pizzas. If the sellers choose to describe them in inches, then this is the sellers’ choice, not the customer’s, informed or otherwise. One could say that the diameter of a pizza is not critical because it does not need to interface with anything or is not used in any calculation. It is the weight and nutrition information that is most important.
     
    I am trying to understand your idea of informed choice. The problem is that different people choose differently. More than once I have had to return bicycle tyres or rims to dealers because someone has “chosen” to think in terms of old imperial sizes rather than the modern, accurate ISO system. Some sizes are very similar to others. I once ordered a hardware item from a calalogue. The catalogue gave the dimension in inches but it seemed right for my requirements. When the item arrived it was described exclusively in centimetres and smaller than the catalogue size owing to rounding down. Fortunately it was still suitable for its intended purpose, but if a more-critical interface had been required it could have been unfit for purpose.
     
    Like you I have used the metric system for well over 50 years, and the imperial system for fewer years – I see no need to use it nowadays, except unfortunately in my car. The continued usage of two systems does cause problems.

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  26. As has already been said by other, what Simon says about imperial use being an informed choice is not the case. When a child has spent their time in education learning metric to come home to parents, media, and their peers pressuring them to use imperial instead because it’s the way things have always been done, that is what makes the whole debacle drag on. Through the fault of successive governments a few vocal luddites were allowed to set the agenda and so here we are now with the tabloid press hailing this as a success.
    It’s ironic that the general public, who for years has sat on the sidelines saying they don’t care how we measure stuff, has actually pushed back and are writing in droves to those papers to say how utterly ridiculous it is in the 21st century to be taking such a backward approach and many are even recognising that if we expect to be able to trade with the rest of the world in a post-EU Britain then using the same measurement system as everybody else is a no brainer.
    What has struck me though is that some sectors of the press appear to have moved (intentionally or not is unclear) in the right direction. I’ve noticed articles in The Guardian recently that are using metric units more often and sometimes even discarding imperial measures completely but I was pleasantly shocked by one article this past weekend about the queues at petrol stations, the first paragraph read:
    “A kilometre of one of the UK’s most congested roads was on Sunday taking on a new, unwanted role: the queue for a BP garage still managing to sell petrol.”
    Later in the article it did have a quote from a driver saying they needed to drive 200 miles but that’s to be expected when that’s what you have on the road signs.
    It does show though that, like much else they’re doing at the moment, attempts by our government to appease their right wing support is actually backfiring and that people may actually begin to use metric more often as they realise how stupid we look by clinging onto the past.

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  27. Hello again, Simon. Thank you for coming back.
     
    So in the 1860s an astronomer said that the problem with the metric system was there was nothing to fill the gap between the centimetre and the metre (100 cm).
     
    One person’s opinion nearly 120 years ago.
     
    So if that “gap” is such a problem, it is surprising that in the course of nearly 120 years I am not aware of any astronomers coming up with something to fill the gap between the mile or kilometre and the light year (9·46 x 1012 km).
     
    Risk assessments do not actually prevent things from happening; they try to quantify the chance of undesirable events, largely for insurance purposes. However they can be useful in identifying ways to reduce risk. The method statement adopted by Air Canada included fully metricating the fuelling system across all aircraft.
    It is not a case of making a decision according to our careers. Whatever our jobs, we all go shoppping, travel around, watch or participate in sport, etc. We need to operate with whatever these activities present to us.
    Regarding personal choice, and also taking account of your earlier post, my overall assessment is some people choose imperial measurements for the more casual things in life, whilst recognising that metric is more important when we require precision.

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  28. Metricmac said:
    “However I would not go along with redefining imperial measures in round metric terms. We had a problem like that in the timber trade in the 1970s. Timber was sold in multiple lengths of 0·3 metre, so this would be unofficially described as a foot. This caused numerous complaints of being sold short measure.”
    How would anyone complain about beer in short measure if the pint in England was increased from 568 mL to 570 mL officially. This would be in harmony with other countries that actually have the pint unit in their WMA but define it as exactly 570 mL. Even all pint glassware is 570 mL. There is no 568 mL pint glass. Even if a bottle says 568 mL, the actual fill is 570 mL as the filling machines only resolve to 10 mL increments. Why does the definition have to be out of sync with the real world?
    With a 570 mL definition, a third of a pint becomes an exact 190 mL, and two thirds is 380 mL.

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  29. Steve
    In the early 1970s I was working in the Land Survey Department at Nottingham City Council where we carried our topographical surveys for all the housing, roads and schools schemes that were being planned for the city. Suffice to say that from when I started in 1970 everything was fully metric and apart from the trigonometric control that was done with millimetre accuracy, we measured all the detail in decimetres. This had the advantage that we only used whole numbers or halves ie we only needed to measure to the nearest 5cm as this was all we could realistically plot to at 1:500 scale. Using ‘chain surveying’ techniques and taking literally thousands of measurements per day that were hand written, it meant we could work at speed in teams of three. To avoid any possible confusion especially if working in the rain when the paper would be sodden, we always used the ‘forward slash’ instead of a decimal point. You may also be interested to learn that the chains we used were 20m in length.
    I always felt lucky that I worked in a profession that was one of the very first to go metric with the Ordnance Survey’s pioneering National Grid in 1936.

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  30. Interesting point about the decimetre, Tim. Although it has never been in popular usage, I’m sure it had a definition at the inception of the metric system. It is a pity that the astronomer of 1862 did not spot it.

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  31. @Daniel
    Wow! The Bylines publications certainly are spot on.
    And the article doesn’t even mention that both Liberia and Myanmar are currently moving towards metric and that some USA measures are different from Imperial in the bargain.
    So much for Global Britain, alas. They might as well put up big signs at Heathrow saying KEEP OUT and NO TRESPASSING!

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  32. Ezra,
    Unfortunately way too many people have allowed themselves to be duped by the Fake News. The Fake News is salivating at the remote possibility of the UK returning to imperial, yet this is not the government’s intentions. There would be a huge backlash from most businesses if they even tried.
    All that was “promised” was that shop keepers be allowed to show advertisements in pounds only. Presently the law requires pricing in grams with pounds as a supplemental indicator in smaller font. Many small shops are breaking this law now by advertising in pounds only or pounds with grams in small font. So, to keep these shop owners from being charged as criminals, the government is promising to amend the law to allow for pound only pricing.
    There is no promise to revert to imperial nor relax the laws allowing for scales in units other than grams. But you see how the media, repeating a lie often enough gets so many ignorant souls to believe it as truth.

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  33. The decimetre was certainly used from the earliest days of the metric system. During the first few years of the the nineteenth century (1801 or 1802?), various metric units were given “everyday names”. The decimetre was called a “hand”.

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