Give ’em an inch

IT was nice to read (Letters, May 31) that George Entwistle would be happy to accept a majority decision if there was a public vote on whether the UK should use imperial or metric units of measurement. Regular polls taken over the last five years by inde

IT was nice to read (Letters, May 31) that George Entwistle would be happy to accept a majority decision if there was a public vote on whether the UK should use imperial or metric units of measurement.

Regular polls taken over the last five years by independent organisers have shown that between 75 and 85 per cent of people of all ages would prefer to use and retain the traditional imperial system for everyday use. Interestingly, since the imposition of compulsory metric measures for the sale of food, produce and loose goods was introduced, there has been a slight increase in the numbers of those preferring the imperial system of units.

The British Weights and Measures Association believes in freedom of choice and has even given support and advice to an Austrian lady who set-up a continental bar and was warned by local trading standards officers that she was committing a criminal offence by selling beer by the litre. And it is well known that BWMA gave advice and support to the late Steve Thoburn who received a criminal record for selling bananas by the pound.

It was Lord Justice Law's decision in the Thoburn case that determined that European Law had legal precedence over British Law because an Act of Parliament that allowed traders to sell their wares in either imperial or metric units was ruled as inferior to European Law that required traders to sell in metric units only.


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In practice, most people use feet and inches for height and stones and pounds for body weight and miles and yards for distance, but might well use metric units if studying physics or chemistry. Most jams are sold in 454g jars which, of course are 1lb measures, and motor oil is often sold in 4.54 litre cans, which are gallon cans. Isn't it rather a pity that EU legislation prevents these items being sold in imperial units?

It really is no hardship to learn both systems, but it is legalised vandalism to deliberately destroy a system because it is not EU approved, especially when it is the preferred system of a majority of the British people.

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BWMA would accept the majority verdict if the British people were ever given a vote on which system should continue to be used, but it would never support any legislation to kill off any alternative system.

As the old racing slogan goes, it's horses for courses and there are pros and cons for every system, including the virtually unused duodecimal system.

Mr Entwistle's letter presents a democratic solution with which I entirely agree.

DEREK NORMAN, Committee Member, British Weights and Measures Association

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