Extracts from key reports

Extracts from key reports on British metrication

Extracts or summaries are provided from the following key reports on adopting metric in the UK.

First Report of the Commissioners appointed to consider more Uniform Weights and Measures, 1819

Report from the Select Committee on Weights and Measures, 1862

Report from the Select Committee on Weights and Measures, 1895

Report of the Committee on Weights and Measures Legislation, 1950

Final Report of the Board of Trade Committee on Consumer Protection, 1962

Government White Paper on Metrication, 1972

Report by the Department of Trade and Industry on Metrication, 1995

First Report of the Commissioners appointed to consider more Uniform Weights and Measures, 1819

A general uniformity of Weights and Measures is so obviously desirable in every commercial country, in order to the saving of time, the preventing of mistakes, and the avoiding of litigation, that its establishment has been a fundamental principle in the English construction from time immemorial, and it has occasionally been enforced by penal statutes, and by various other legislative enactments.

Appendix B to the report is available here in PDF format.

Report from the Select Committee on Weights and Measures, 1862

In this country a standard of uniformity existed before the conquest. It was enacted in the time of Richard I, and declared by Magna Carta, that there should be one weight and one measure throughout the realm. In more recent times, committees and commissions have been appointed to inquire into the practicability of introducing a more simple and uniform system of weights and measures, as well as a system of decimal coinage.

The full report is available here in PDF format.

Report from the Select Committee on Weights and Measures, 1895

The evidence, however, goes further to show that not only is our foreign trade, in every branch, seriously handicapped, but that the home trade would be benefited if more simple and uniform standards of weights and measures than those now existing were adopted.

Moreover strong evidence was brought forward as to the serious loss of time incurred by English school children in having to learn the complicated system of tables of existing weights and measures, and the urgent need of the adoption of a simpler system. It was stated that no less than one year’s school time would be saved if the metrical system were taught in place of that now in use.

Your Committee recommend:-
a) That the metrical system of weights and measures be at once legalised for all purposes.
b) That after a lapse of two years the metrical system be rendered compulsory by Act of Parliament.
c) That the metrical system of weights and measures be taught in all public elementary schools as a necessary and integral part of arithmetic, and that decimals be introduced at an earlier period of the school curriculum than is the case at present.

The full report is available here in PDF format.

Report of the Committee on Weights and Measures Legislation, 1950

This report chaired by E.H. Hodgson included the following conclusions.

The metric system is a closely defined and universally recognised system under the guidance of an international body. The imperial system is a conglomeration of units which form a rough whole. In Great Britain there are five different systems of weight and three of capacity. The Commonwealth bases the value of the units on Imperial Standards kept in London, but the U.S.A. defines its yard and pound on the International Metre and Kilogramme. The advantage of the metric over the imperial system is that it is entirely decimal, and being coupled with the decimal system of coinage, it makes for ease in calculation.

The Government should take steps in concert with the Commonwealth and U.S.A. to abolish the Imperial system of measurement and replace it by the metric system over a period of 20 years.

Final Report of the Board of Trade Committee on Consumer Protection, 1962

A uniform system of weights and measures, nationally used and enforced, is plainly part of the basic vocabulary of consumer protection.

Government White Paper on Metrication, 1972

Paragraph 6
Progress to metrication cannot be a haphazard affair, left to individual whim and decision. If that were to happen it would cause confusion throughout industry and would present untold difficulties to the consumer. It is in everybody’s interest therefore to ensure that (the change-over) takes place in a well-ordered and properly regulated manner.

Paragraph 10
To attempt to keep imperial units for the individual shopper while industry was on metric would be both confusing and costly. It would also deny us the very real savings to be gained when turning over completely to metric.

Paragraph 102
The nation must consider the costs of not going metric. These include the cost of continuing to operate two systems. If the United Kingdom were to retain the imperial system, while at the same time having to use metric to an increasing extent for international trade, British industry would be less efficient and less competitive and higher costs would be cumulative. This would have repercussions on the standard of living and we would burden ourselves with an economic handicap.

The full report is available here in PDF format.

Report by the Department of Trade and Industry on Metrication, 1995

The case for metrication is even stronger in the 1990s. Other Commonwealth countries have gone metric. Metrication is now under way in the United States. The metric system has been taught in our schools since 1974. Metric units are now used by the public sector for most purposes.

4. COMPLETING UK METRICATION
4.1 … consumer groups consider that delaying still further the completion of metrication would not be in the best interest of consumers.

4.3 From the consumer’s perspective, if goods were sold in metric units in some shops and in imperial in others it would be difficult to compare prices unless all shops priced in both metric and imperial units. Mandatory dual pricing in metric and imperial units would be a burden for some retailers, particularly for small shops where prices are calculated manually rather than by computer and where there is likely to be limited space for displaying prices.

The full report is available here in PDF format.