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Half a pound of tuppenny rice… or should that be 226.796 grams of tuppenny rice? The imperial measurements consultation

Do you prefer your fruit and veg in pounds and ounces or grams and kilograms? Your lengths in feet and inches, or centimetres and metres? Perhaps you prefer even older measurements, furlongs perhaps? Well if you do, this could just be the consultation for you. As part of their drive to take advantage of the opportunities of Brexit, the Government has recently launched its consultation on returning Imperial measurements to the shelves and throwing off the tyranny of the metric system.

So, how does the consultation… measure up..? It’s a fairly short one, which uses that time honoured phrase ‘tak[ing] back control’ and frames the decision as ‘providing a choice’ on units of measurements in public life. It lasts for just under three months and is being run by the Office for Product Safety and Standards and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Multiple methods of response are presented, covering both online and offline methods. All good so far.

The questions are an interesting bunch- all reasonably leading and with no ‘status quo’ option of “metric only”, we hope they’ll address their reasoning for this in their response. It would be somewhat unusual not to. There are several more open questions where responses such as this could be submitted (in a slightly ‘crowbarred’ fashion), albeit none of them in the sections targeted at consumers.

Question 3(d) is a curious one: “Do you have experience of buying solely in imperial units?” As some twitter commentators have made hay with, to answer yes to this question might be to implicate oneself in facilitating the breaking of the law by the seller! I think as a general rule our advice would be to clients not to ask such questions!

It will be very interesting to see the results of this one, and how it’s carried forward. An ever-increasing proportion of the population of course (yours truly included!) will not really recall the pre-metric days, and are unlikely to want to spend time familiarising themselves with them. This might not be the only implementation problem- how much brasso will weights and measures offices and trading standards need to clean off scales and measures dredged up from dusty corners of cupboards?

Such matters of implementation are of course beyond our remit, but this consultation could be one to watch nonetheless. We’ve seen a few of late that seem to be driven by very party political concerns, rather than the needs and requirements of policy, and they often receive similarly polarised responses. Will this be another? Whatever the situation, we hope the responses are given appropriate…weight…

About the Author

Stephen serves as the Institute’s Legal and Parliamentary Officer. Before joining the Institute Stephen studied Law at Bangor University and pursued a Masters’ degree in Aviation and Space Law at McGill University in Montreal. After this, he returned to London and was called to the bar in 2016 at the Honorable Society of Gray’s Inn, before deciding not to go into practice and move towards public policy work instead. Within the Institute, Stephen provides legal, political and policy analysis of UK and global current affairs of interest to consultors and consultees.

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