In June 2022, UKMA member Martin Vlietstra responded to the Government’s Imperial Units survey and downloaded his responses. Just over a week later, he downloaded his responses again and found that one of his responses seemed to have been changed behind his back and the option he picked to one question was removed. Despite the fact that the imperial units consultation ended on 26 August 2022, the Government have not yet published their analysis of the responses. When they do, they must answer some awkward questions about their botched consultation.
He responded to the consultation on 11 June 2022. There were two different ways of responding to the consultation – using the web-supplied form and using your own copy of the form supplied. There was a discrepancy between the two – the web-supplied form had three options for Question 3a – the third option being “Not in imperial units”. He selected that option and downloaded a copy of his responses. He also wrote to his MP pointing out this error. A few days later, his MP Ranil Jayawardena sent him the correspondence he received from Jane Hunt, the Minister for Small Business, Consumers & Labour Markets at the time, saying that the forms have been harmonised.
The Government response was to delete the third option from the web-based form. The action taken by Jane Hunt’s officials (albeit while her predecessor was in charge) was, from the point of view of statistical integrity, probably the worst possible decision that they could have made.
On 20 June 2022, he revisited the website and checked the record of his responses. When he downloaded his response document, he found that his response to Question 3a seemed to have been changed from “Not in imperial units” to “Not Answered”. His response to Question 1c was also apparently changed from “An item should not be sold in imperial measures” to “Not Answered”.
He told his MP that he has already responded to the consultation and expressed his displeasure that BEIS seemed to have changed his response. His choice was effectively to “maintain the status quo”, a choice which he believes to be perfectly reasonable.
Here the different responses to Questions 1c and 3a are highlighted between the original and tampered versions of his response document:
It is clear that the procedures in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) cannot be relied on to reproduce answers given by respondents. Martin has been involved in his own private battle with the Minister regarding the Imperial Units consultation. He has written to his own MP again and demanded answers from the Minister to the following questions:
- Why was his response changed?
- Who authorised the change?
- What steps will Jane Hunt’s successor be taking to ensure that any conclusions made from responses to the consultation are not corrupted by the lack of statistical integrity of Question 3a?
- Were the answers from any other respondents changed? If so, how many?
- How will the analysis of the consultation handle this issue?
- Why was the “Not in imperial units” option deleted from the possible responses to Question 3a?
Let’s remind readers of the wording of Question 3a and the available options in their current form. Question 3a asks:
“3a) If you had a choice, would you want to purchase items:
(i) in imperial units?
(ii) in imperial units alongside a metric equivalent?”
It is easy to see that no matter how many people respond to Question 3a, how many pick option (i) and how many pick option (ii), it guarantees that 100% of all respondents will express preferences for imperial units because there is no option to say No to imperial units. This result is guaranteed in advance. Those who don’t want imperial units are forced to leave this question unanswered or to pick an answer that does not apply to them. Therefore, the results of Question 3a will be invalid.
Other questions the Government must answer are:
- How will the analysis handle the lack of options to say “No” to imperial units?
- How will the analysis handle two versions of the survey?
- Will the Government produce a separate analysis for each version of the survey?
- How will the Government handle unanswered questions and responses that do not apply to respondents due to the limited options they were given?
The Government has restricted the survey options and appeared to have tampered with the responses. How many others have had their responses changed to “Not Answered”? And which responses were changed to “Not Answered”?
It is dishonest to say that they have not answered questions when they clearly have and to delete their responses. It is bad enough that the Imperial Units consultation document contains various factual errors, and the biased survey gives respondents no option to say No to imperial units (e.g., see https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/sep/18/metric-system-imperial-measures-consultation-brexit). Inconsistent versions of the survey, restricted options and distorted responses all make the results of this consultation null and void. It is a sham and should be scrapped.
The Government’s imperial units consultation webpage can be found at:
One thought on “Questions Government must answer about imperial units consultation”
I have done a review of the progress of this consultation. Its publication is currently [24 April] 157 days overdue. This has not been helped by the game of musical chairs that has played Downing Street since the consultation was first announced. The crucial dates are as follows:
22 May 2022 – Consultation announced by Boris Johnson. Kwasi Kwarteng was BEIS (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) Secretary of State and Jane Hunt was Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets
3 Jun 2022 – Consultation formally published.
5 Jul 2022 – Johnson announces resignation, but stays on as caretaker. Kwarteng remains BEIS Secretary of State.
26 Aug 2022 – Consultation closes
5 Sep 2022 – Truss elected Prime Minister. Rees-Mogg becomes BEIS Secretary of State. Hunt’s position becomes vacant.
20 Sep 2022 – Dean Russell becomes Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Enterprise and Markets (replaces Hunt’s department)
22 Oct 2022 – Truss announces decision to resign. She and Rees-Mogg remain in place in a caretakers.
25 Oct 2022 – Sunak becomes Prime Minister. Grant Shapps becomes BEIS Secretary of State.
27 Oct 2022 – Kevin Hollinrake becomes Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business, taking over all of Russell’s roles.
18 Nov 2022 – Consultation report due (12 weeks after consultation closed)
7 Feb 2023 – BEIS split into four departments.
The observant reader will notice that during most of the time that the consultation was open, the country had a caretaker prime minister and during the twelve weeks when the government should have been analysing the results, there were three prime ministers and three secretaries of state. It has of course not helped that the BEIS was broken up into four departments. My question now is “Who will own up to having inherited a mess from their predecessor, or will the current secretary of state (which one?) just kick it into the long grass for their successor to pick up?
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