In response to letter from the British Weights and Measures Association (BWMA), the Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts MP, has confirmed that there is no change in Government policy on the units of measurement in use for trade.
A month after the last general election, BWMA’s Director , Mr Gardner, wrote to Mr Willetts at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, requesting a meeting with a view to promoting the use of imperial measures for trade. Mr Willetts’ reply to BWMA, dated 6 July 2010, is reproduced below. This letter has only recently come to the attention of MetricViews, and we regret that we were not able to share it with our readers sooner.
“Dear Mr Gardner
Thank you for your letter of 6 June about units of measurement in use for trade and your suggestion that units of measurement legislation be repealed.
The Government recognises that the enforced switch to metric units of the 1990s has been unpopular with many consumers and traders who prefer imperial units. We are committed to fair trade and want to see a system of measurement that is fair to everyone in the UK. We also recognise that for much of UK business and science the use of metric units is essential to ensure that they can continue to compete with the best in the world.
The UK is already substantially metric and so turning back the clock to a single system of imperial units is no longer an option. To do so would create a major disadvantage for UK plc in its dealings with the rest of the world, put us in breach of our European obligations, and impose additional costs on business and the public sector.
There are no further deadlines to end the remaining uses of imperial units. Imperial units remain as primary indications for a limited number of uses. They are still preferred by some consumers and they are used by many traders and manufacturers alongside metric units in dual labelling. We are committed to retaining the right to use imperial units in dual labelling and have no plans to introduce any further metrication.
However, it remains important for fair trade that there is a single set of units in use in trade. Returning to the use of imperial units even for a narrow range of goods would, at this stage, unfairly disadvantage the vast majority of businesses who have already switched over to metric units. It would also reduce consumer protection as buyers would no longer be able to compare prices, undermining consumer confidence in the marketplace and leading to a potential market failure.
In any case, the scope of Directive 80/181/EC (as amended) is very wide and is not restricted to cross border trade. Hence the importance of the continued derogations for imperial units for milk, draught beer and cider and road traffic, even though these usages do not have any impact on cross border trade. As you know, that Directive was amended just last year and is unlikely to be subject to review before 2019.
You have suggested a meeting and I can confirm that my officials would be happy to meet you to discuss these issues further …
Yours sincerely, David Willetts”