Wednesday, September 7

The End of the ounce


By Christoper Booker

There was some late silly-season fluttering of the dovecotes last week when Gunther Verheugen, the EU's commissioner for "enterprise" (now there's an oxymoron), announced that "unnamed parties" had lobbied him to ensure that Britain completes its conversion to the metric system.
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What sticks in the craw of metric fanatics, such as Geoffrey Howe's curious little pressure group the UK Metric Association, is that we enjoy an exemption from Brussels, under which we are graciously permitted to continue putting miles on our road signs and ordering a pint of beer (but not shandy) in a pub.

The Department for Transport responded that it has no plans to metricate Britain's 300,000-plus road signs, not least because of the cost, running into hundreds of millions of pounds.
Thus for the time being we can enjoy that traditional British compromise whereby it is a criminal offence to use non-metric measures, for most purposes, but in practice this is widely ignored.
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In our local market last week, almost everyone, apart from the excellent French cheese stall, had price tickets in pounds and ounces, with kilograms in small print below.

In four years time, however, it will be illegal to show non-metric weights and measures (what are called "supplementary indicators").
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In all the 40-year struggle to impose metrication on Britain, this is the only metric law which has ever been debated or voted on in Parliament, albeit only in the House of Lords.

In 2001 the Government whipped its noble supporters to make it an offence for shopkeepers even to mention pounds and ounces. Among those who dutifully voted to push this through was my old friend Melvyn Bragg, now Lord Bragg of Wigton.
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When I next ran into him I expressed surprise that he was happy to support such a crazily illiberal measure, He responded with equal surprise: "Did I really do that? I had no idea that was what I was voting for." So we are now governed.

2 comments:

Shelagh said...

A few years ago, I went to buy some wood.

I asked for two by one - meaning two inches by one inch.

Ahh - we can't sell that any more, says the man.

We've only got 50 by 25 centimetres.

OK- says I.

And how much is it?

"Half a crown a foot" comes the answer as he got out his calculator.....

And, you know, resistence to change does pay rewards. We women know our fabric measurements in yards - so although the "official" measurement is metres, all the shops which still sell dress material will happily do so by the yard!!

Kelly said...

Just think now that you are going to have to change you will also have to carry a calculator around with you. Also, a conversion chart. this way you will be able to double check to see if you are getting as good a deal as you think that you are. Then as you are trying to come to terms with what you might actually be paying for your item. The next guy will get it before you.

Our homes are built on two by fours but now that will change but will those changes be easier for changing our homes or will they just add to the problems? I mean, most things I own were measured in feet and inches will I still be able to get suitable replacement parts in the new totally metric world or will you become like the USA and have both posted on everything.