Yesterday, the UK Weighing Federation (UKWF) issued a briefing on the regulation of the UK weighing industry and the Retained EU Law Bill. This briefing emphasised the key role of weights and measures in all areas of industry and consumers’ everyday lives and also explained the serious consequences of lowering or complete removal of current regulatory standards.
UKWF raises a lot of important issues and explains what is at stake if the REUL Bill becomes law. Here is the text of the UKWF briefing in full:
UKWF Briefing on the regulation of the UK weighing industry and the Retained EU Law Bill
22nd February 2023
The UK Weighing Federation (UKWF) is the recognised national trade association for manufacturers, system integrators, distributors, repairers, installers and service organisations involved in the weighing industry. We have over 60 member companies operating across the UK, collectively employing over 3000 people, with an industry-wide turnover of £300million. Our objectives are to:
- To act on regulatory matters arising at a UK, European and International level
- To sustain good relations and continued dialogue with all levels of government agencies and professional bodies
- To promote and improve the understanding of modern weighing technology, thereby improving the quality of service given to customers.
Why does robust regulation of the UK weighing industry matter?
Weights and measures – also known as legal metrology – plays a key role in all areas of industry, as well as consumers’ everyday lives. You would struggle to find a part of life that does not require accurate weighing. However, reliable weighing isn’t always a given and can be taken for granted.
A strong regulatory framework for legal metrology is critical to ensuring confidence in the accuracy weighing and measuring. It should set out the high-quality standards that any company, regardless of country of domicile, producing weights and measures equipment and systems for use in the UK should meet. This ensures that consumers, business and Government can be guaranteed that the metrology instruments and systems being used to underpin every aspect of both industrial activity and everyday life meet the highest standards of accuracy and safety.
Any absence of a strong regulatory framework runs the risk of allowing inaccurate, and ultimately extremely dangerous, weighing and measuring instruments into the UK market. Not only could low-quality weighing machines and systems flood our market, but protection and safety enforcement by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) would be rendered impossible. The implications of this are far-reaching, and this briefing sets out just a small number of examples.
1. Consumer rights
Consumers often assume that they get what they pay for when it comes to buying weighed products, and that the quality of products is automatically guaranteed through the production process. However, this very much depends on the quality of the weighing instruments that companies selling the products are using. If a supermarket customer is buying 500g of beef, for example, it is their basic consumer right to expect the correct amount of produce in return for the price stated. Equally, customers of the same supermarket should expect the weighing equipment available for purchasing fruit and vegetables to be accurate to ensure they are getting what they pay for. While we use food purchasing as an example, confidence in the accuracy of weighing equipment underpins fundamental rights in many aspects of consumer activity across the UK.
2. Patient safety
The pharmaceutical and biomedical industries are wholly dependent on accurate metrology. Right through from R&D to mass production of new medicines, patients’ lives depend on this industry having accurate measurement of the components of medicines and treatments, both in terms of efficacy and safety. The smallest inaccuracy has the potential to be life-threatening to the recipient. Every new treatment, including the COVID-19 vaccines, would not be safe if the highest quality standards in weighing and measuring equipment and systems were not upheld.
Accurate weighing and measuring are also critical in delivering patient care in the NHS. In many cases, dosage of treatment is informed by patient weight, and said dosages must be accurate not to affect patient safety. This is as important in paediatric care as with adult care. If low-quality equipment and systems are allowed to enter the NHS, via a dip in regulatory standards, patient safety will be compromised. Accuracy in this context is a matter of life and death.
3. Transport, manufacturing, industrial and consumer safety
We have space for just a handful of the myriad examples of how accurate weighing and measuring underpins transport, manufacturing and consumer safety in this briefing.
- An accurate measurement of train weight is necessary to ensure the safety of rail bridges and rail track.
- Accurate weights of cargo ensures that the freight shipping industry remains safe and viable and the road infrastructure is maintained.
- There are explicit links between safety and weight for use of many day-to-day products, for example, with child car seats.
- Understanding and respecting loadbearing limits is a fundamental safety practice across many industrial and manufacturing processes.
4. Taxation and revenues
A significant amount of Government taxation revenue is dependent on an accurate measurement of the volume imported or sold. For example, taxation revenues from petrol sales are based on volumes, and therefore it is imperative to the correct collection of the taxation that volume sold is reported accurately. Additional, examples of tax collected on volumes include import taxes on many products, such a raw material for building, and landfill taxes. The use of accurate and high-quality equipment ensures the Government is not being short-changed on duties owed.
5. A robust UK metrology industry
As evidenced by the scale of UKWF membership, by and large, the UK weighing industry produces high quality, safe and accurate machines, equipment and systems. We are proud of the standards achieved by UK suppliers and support a robust regulatory system to underpin them. The alignment of standards with the European Union also allowed UK businesses to supply with confidence across European markets, and our current high standards of regulation act as a “kitemark” for quality assurance. Quite simply, if it is made in the UK, it is internationally understood to be safe, accurate and good quality.
The implications of the EU Retained Law Bill
The regulatory regime for the UK weighing industry is retained EU law. If the sunset clause in the EU Retained Law Bill remains, meaning it is likely the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) will not have adequate time to adopt a new UK regulatory framework, there will be a regulatory vacuum for the weighing industry on 1st January 2024.
Any lowering, or complete removal, of current regulatory standards in the UK risks both an influx of low-quality weights and measures products and systems into the UK market, which puts patient safety, consumer rights and safety, and UK tax revenue collection at significant risk. Additionally, by virtue of their lower quality, there is a risk that new weights and measures equipment will be cheaper, rendering it difficult for UK companies who wish to uphold high standards to compete. There is a very real risk of a race to the bottom.
The UKWF would support the removal of the sunset clause that removes all EU Retained Law by 31st December 2023. We would also be willing to support the OPSS in drafting the new UK regulatory system, which should look very much like the current system, in order to prevent the risks outlined above.
2 thoughts on “UKWF issues warning about risks of REUL Bill”
Let’s hope the government listens to reason or else gets ousted by a new Labour government. Either way, the EU Retained Law Bill is a ticking time bomb ready to explode a whole load of s**t onto the UK economy and the public. 😦
One of the big problems with the British Government (both Parliament and the civil service) is that people who have been trained in any of the STEM* disciplines are badly under-retpresented. I think that this warning by the UKWF is an indication of this effects of this interlectual imbalance..
*STEM = “Science, technology, engineering and maths”
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