Content and synopsis


Foreword by Lord Howe of Aberavon, CH, QC

Executive Summary


  1. Introduction – purpose of the report
  2. The National Standardisation Strategic Framework
  3. The mess we’re in – and why it matters
  4. How did we get into this mess?
  5. How can we get out of this mess?
  6. Principles of changeover
  7. Specific policy areas
  8. Conclusion


  1. Lessons from experience of other countries
  2. Quotations from Magna Carta and the Act of Union
  3. Bibliography and references


British weights and measures are in a mess. This is because although many aspects of national life are metric (including most industry and building, school mathematics and science, athletics, rugby union and Ordnance Survey maps), many imperial relics remain (e.g. in road signs, football commentaries, estate agents’ advertisements and most non-specialist media). The result is a confusing muddle.

This half metric, half imperial muddle matters. It matters because it increases costs (dual pricing and marking of packages), prevents fair comparisons in shops, requires constant conversions, leads to misunderstandings, wastes our children’s metric education, confuses overseas visitors, and, not least, frustrates one of the great advantages of metric units – that they constitute a proper coherent system in which all units are interrelated and easy to calculate in.

We are in this mess because successive British governments lacked the commitment and political courage to carry through a necessary reform in a decisive and co-ordinated manner. Instead they have lapsed into a piecemeal, “voluntary/gradual” approach without attempting to explain the reasons for change or to win hearts and minds. The result has been that opponents of change have been able to exploit fears of the unknown and misrepresent metrication as though it were a foreign imposition. The reform has therefore stalled.

UK Metric Association (UKMA) contends that there is a way out of this mess.

The purpose of this report by the UKMA is to persuade responsible opinion formers that the UK should complete the changeover to exclusive use of the international metric system as soon as practicable. The UK is the only significant country in the world (apart from the USA) which has begun and then failed to carry through a metric conversion programme. UKMA calls upon the Government to demonstrate its commitment by announcing early completion dates for all remaining areas of national life, including retailing and road signs.