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Metric Culprits


For latest news, please see the most recent edition of BWMA's newsletter, "The Yardstick", on the Publications page.

Old news below:

Seizure of imperial weighing scales 16 September 2007

Hackney council officials, accompanied by police, seized imperial weighing scales belonging to market trader Colin Hunt on 13 September 2007. Colin Hunt was one of the original five "Metric Martyr" traders who underwent criminal prosecution for selling in pounds and ounces in 2002 - click here for more
Colin Hunt (photo from www.guardian-series.co.uk)

EC Commission proposals published 12 September 2007

EC Commissioner Günter Verheugen has published his proposals on metric Directive 80/181. Click here for a summary and links to the EC report, and here for BWMA's comment

British Government supports continued use of non-metric supplementary indications 20 January 2007

The Department of Trade and Industry has issued the following statement in relation to the EC "metric-only" Directive 80/181 : "The use of supplementary indications on goods is an important means of facilitating trade between Member States and non-metric countries such as the USA. The Government believes that the removal of the permission to use supplementary indications after 2009 could create a barrier to trade and increase costs for UK businesses wishing to export to the US. Therefore, the Government intends to support the continued use of supplementary indications after 2009 for an indefinite period".

British Industry meets Department of Trade and Industry over "metric-only" Directive 9 November 2006

Representatives from BWMA and British industry have met with the Department of Trade and Industry to express grave concerns with the EC's "metric-only" Directive, due to be implemented in 2010. Organisations attending including those representing clothing, tyre, healthcare, bicycle, dairy, food and drink, hand tools, artists paper and domestic appliances.

There are fears that the Directive will place a barrier to global trade, reduce the ability to provide consumer information and cause safety risks. Moreover, manufacturing processes would be affected, such as the remoulding of tyres, and the setting up of duplicated packaging, inventories and warehousing to serve both EU and US markets. The DTI said there was a strong case for supplementary indications and that it was open to views.

Orgalime opposes EC "metric-only" 2010 Directive (31 October 2006)

Orgalime, the European-wide body representing EU mechanical, electrical and metalworking industries, is opposed to the EC's intention to prevent the display of non-metric measurement information from January 2010. Orgalime's position is that, "...the Commission should allow the use of supplementary indications on products, using both SI and other units in order to be able to serve the needs of the markets for engineering products".

Orgalime also remarks that, although, "...in many countries SI [metric] units are the standard, this is by no means universal practice. In certain countries in the European Union, or outside it, units other than SI are still used and still have to be used ... we urge the Commission to refrain from introducing any further legally enforced time frame for introducing obligatory marking in SI units only within the EU ... Orgalime believes that the present issue which has been reappearing on the regulatory agenda since the 1970s needs to be dealt with once and for all ... The possibility to label products and have documen-tation using both SI and other units for as long as required by the market must therefore, in our view, be perpetuated".

BWMA's Honorary Members and Patrons write to the Prime Minister (21 April 2006)

Click here

Devon marketeer faces police questions over lb of onions (5 July 2006)

Massive backlash against Neil Kinnock and UK Metric Association call for metric road signs (24 February 2006)

The call for metric road signs in time for the 2012 London Olympics by the UK Metric Association and former EC Commissioner Neil Kinnock has been rejected by the government, press, motoring associations and public.

The motorists association AA said: "A move to make UK road signs metric will take far longer than five years. A key flaw lies with speedometers that primarily measure miles per hour. Any precipitous change-over will create confusion, danger and anger, particularly where misunderstanding leads to prosecution for road traffic offences, such as speeding. Another is the cost of changing all road signs, which will far exceed those predicted in the report. We also know from past experience that there will be some highway authorities who lag well behind. A patchwork of metric and imperial signage across the country would be a recipe for disaster".

The Department of Transport released a report showing that the cost of metric conversion would be in the region of £700 million, far more than the £80 million suggested by UKMA. Meanwhile, 96% of callers to Teletext rejected the idea (see photo).

US Government back pedals on metric conversion (29 October 2005)

Efforts by the U.S. government's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to introduce compulsory metric conversion for packaged food and goods in the USA (euphemistically described as "voluntary metric-only labelling" - click here for analysis) have been prevented. It was intended that a metric bill would be put before Congress this year but NIST has accepted that this will not happen this year or in the foreseeable future.

NIST's failure is due in no small part to opposition by the Food Marketing Institute, representing 26,000 food retail stores, and Kroger, America's largest supermarket chain. FMI pointed out that metric conversion would entail huge costs for the food retail industry, affecting value-comparisons, packaging, label inventories, shipping cases and much more.

EC back pedals on threat to mile and pint (20 September 2005)

In an interview with EUpolitix.com on 19 September, European Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry Günter Verheugen denied that he intends to force the UK to implement metric measures. He said: "I am not pressuring the UK to go metric. As long as I am in Brussels I will not touch the issue. Full stop ... I personally have a lot of sympathy for the pint and for the mile in the UK ... what is the problem here for the internal market. Really, what is the problem?”
Günter Verheugen

UK Metric Association is "unnamed party" behind EC pressure (September 3rd, 2005)

Information available from the Department for Transport reveals that it was the UK Metric Association that made a complaint to the EC regarding the UK's failure to set an end-date for the pint and mile (see last news entry). This disclosure is likely to cause acute embarassment to UKMA, which last week issued a press statement denying that it had any contact with the EC over this issue. For the full story, click here.

Renewed EC pressure on Britain to abolish pint and mile (August 28th, 2005)

Britain's Sunday papers today contain news of renewed pressure by the European Commission on Britain to abolish the mile in favour of the kilometre, spurred on by "unnamed parties" in the UK. These stories may be accessed via the websites of the Sunday Tmes and the Observer.

30 metric signs modified by York Council (August 19th 2005)

Anti-metric campaigners are celebrating after a council was forced to modify 30 public rights of way signs. City of York Council erected the path markers with distances in kilometres (km) instead of miles. Kilometres are not authorised under highways regulations. The authority said it ordered plastic discs to fix over the offending metric distances, adding: "This was a genuine error and as soon as it was brought to our attention, we took measures to amend it".
Photo: http://www.thisisyork.co.uk
Active Resistance to Metrication supporter Peter Rogers said: "Each time we are successful [in getting metric signs changed], it is a small but significant step towards eradicating them from our country. The imperial weights and measures of this country are part of our traditions and part of our culture. Attempts to impose metric signs is one by stealth and deception and has been going on for many years."

Metric Judgement in Crisis (May 1st 2005)

Official advice provided to MPs has disowned the February 2002 Metric Martyrs judgement that convicted Steve Thoburn for using pounds and ounces. Click here for further information

Essex butcher Dave Stephens passes away (April 15th, 2005)

We are sad to report that Dave Stephens, the first trader in Britain to receive an infringement notice for using pounds and ounces, passed away today. Dave was a popular figure in the campaign for British weights and measures.

Dave had recently celebrated his fifth anniverary of trading in lb/oz in defiance of metric regulations (see news entry for 6th January 2005, below), and had intended to stand for Parliament in a few weeks' time. Dave Stephens was 60 years old.

BWMA to take Torbay Council to Local Government Ombudsman (April 1st, 2005)

Torbay Council has failed to meet BWMA's requirements for a satisfactory settlement with regards to Dennis Webb, the local fruitier who had his scales damaged by a Trading Standards Officer. What started out as a routine enquiry by BWMA into the damage became an eight month saga as Torbay Trading Standards refused to provide information on what happened, or what their legal authority might be.

An internal investigation by Torbay Council upheld five of BWMA's ten complaints, but did not address adequately the allegation that Torbay Trading Standards had obstructed BWMA's representation of Mr Webb. Further, BWMA regards Torbay Council's offer to Mr Webb of £100 as wholly inadequate, given the gravity of its officers' conduct.

Report launched on 5th anniversary of infringement notice (January 6th, 2005)

Butcher Dave Stephens has marked the fifth anniversary of receiving the first ever metric infringement notice by vowing never to use metric weights. Press, television and dozens of supporters attended his shop to join Dave's celebration of 1,827 days of defiance. The occasion was also taken to launch a report by the Customary Measures Society; click here.

Photo: Dave Stephen's butchers shop window, full of produce marked up in only pounds and ounces

Irish Government admits no consultation held on metric signs (December 23rd, 2004)

The Irish government has admitted that no consulation was held with the motoring industry on to its decision to convert the country's road signs from miles to metric. It has also admitted that it has not conducted any surveys or opinion polls to establish the public's understanding of metric or, indeed, whether the Irish public even want metric road signs. These revelations came about during a series of questions put by BWMA to Ireland's Department of Transport (for the full set of questions and answers, click here).

To inform people of the metric change, planned for 20 January 2005, the Department of Transport has launched a website www.gometric.ie

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