Who will fight the anti-metric newspapers for the cause of metrication?

One major obstacle to further metrication is that too many politicians are afraid to challenge the prejudices of the anti-metric newspapers. This was seen most recently when Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer suggested that the franchise should be extended to EU citizens living in the UK and to 16- and 17-year-olds and that the UK should develop a closer trading relationship with the EU in response to a threatened exodus of carmakers. After some negative front-page headlines in right-wing newspapers (which tend to be anti-metric) to his suggestions, he quickly backed down.

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Why the Metric Martyrs were wrong

Over twenty years ago, a group of market traders were prosecuted for using imperial measures (without showing the equivalent in metric units) and using unauthorised scales that could only measure in imperial units. Newspapers called this group the Metric Martyrs after Chris Howell, then weights and measures spokesman for the Institute of Trading Standards Administration (today the Trading Standards Institute), said that they could martyr themselves if they wanted to. As Ministers are thinking about allowing traders to choose imperial or metric units, we look at what is wrong with the Metric Martyrs’ arguments for freedom of choice in measurement usage.

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Minister failed to explain metrication failure

Even though Conservative MP Paul Scully, the former Minister for Small Business, Consumers & Labour Markets, failed to acknowledge that British measurements are still in a mess, he admitted that “Being able to compare prices and quantities is a fundamental principle of fair trade and that is why, overall we have a single metric system of units of measurement today.”. Ministers should take heed of his words. The use of a single metric system of units of measurement enables consumers to compare prices and quantities but this is now under threat. The recent imperial units consultation and the Retained EU Law Bill are threatening to reverse progress on metrication, reintroduce imperial units and bring back rival systems of units of measurement for trade and commerce.

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Public opinion opposes aims of REUL Bill

The i newspaper recently published a poll about attitudes to the EU. The poll reveals that rejoining the EU is slightly more popular than staying out of the EU and a lot more prefer a closer relationship to the EU to boost trade with the bloc. Both of these preferences are incompatible with the aims of the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill. While UKMA has no position on British membership of the EU or on the UK-EU relationship, UKMA opposes the REUL Bill because it threatens a lot of existing weights and measures legislation. REUL aims to scrap or reform all EU-derived laws by the 31 December 2023 deadline, when they expire by default if nothing is done.

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How imperial units survey design flaws could have been fixed

The Government ran the “Choice on units of measurement: markings and sales” consultation from 3 June 2022 to 26 August 2022. The survey that accompanied the consultation received over 100 000 responses. According to Government guidelines (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/consultation-principles-guidance), a response should have been published by 18 November, 12 weeks after the closing date. This article explains what was wrong with the survey questions and how the survey could have been improved.

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How to respond to imperial-only measurement proposals

The Government has published its “Choice on units of measurement: markings and sales” consultation document about their plans to remove the requirement for traders to show the metric equivalent alongside imperial units.

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The UK’s metric conversion – a comedy of errors?

Ronnie Cohen looks at the story of the UK’s metric changeover during the half century following the establishment of the Metrication Board in the late 1960s. If any other country needs a lesson in how not to do the job, this is it.

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