HC Deb 04 March 1878 vol 238 cc719-21

Order for Second Beading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr Edward Stanhope.)


said, he thought it unreasonable to expect the House to proceed with it at such an hour—10 minues past 12. He had put down a Notice on the Paper in reference to the Bill, with the object of securing its being brought forward at a time when the whole subject of weights and measures could be adequately discussed, and when the House might consider how far it might be desirable to adopt the metrical system for measures of capacity, and the decimal system for weights. He moved the adjournment of the debate.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Parnell.)


hoped the House would consent to go on with the Bill, which was, in the main, a measure of consolidation. Only such Amendments to the existing law as were absolutely necessary for certain purposes were included in the Bill, and they were explained to the House much more fully than he could detail them in a speech, in a Memorandum which had already been circulated among hon. Members. He hoped the House would consent to affirm the principle of consolidating all the numerous Statutes on weights and measures, leaving to a future time any discussion on the details of the Bill. The hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) had referred to the metrical system, and the interest felt by the hon. Gentleman on the subject was shared by many hon. Members who, however, in speaking to him on the matter, had felt that there was no reason why the principle of the Bill should not be affirmed by giving it a second reading.


would be sorry to offer any opposition to a Bill which had been explained to be one mainly for consolidation; but considered that it would be much to be regretted if, in passing such a measure, the House perpetuated all the anomalies of the existing system. It would be most undesirable, in consolidating the existing Statutes, to renew for another series of years the irregularities in weights and measures which ought to be swept away. This Bill affected every adult in the Kingdom, for all were interested in the system of weights and measures. With regard to the former, there was a variety of them— Averdupois, Troy, and Apothecaries' Weights—which, he presumed, were to be continued by the Bill. Then, he supposed, the variations in stones, sacks, and bags to be found in almost every county would also be continued. It was of great importance that the metrical system should be fully considered and discussed by the House. If the Government wished to make a really good measure, they would refer the Bill to a Select Committee, who would work the whole question out thoroughly, and pass a Bill which might be a blessing to the country; but if the Bill were passed in its present form, it would perpetuate a system which was full of inconveniences.


said, it was perfectly true that the statement referred to by the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. E. Stanhope) was very full and explanatory; but the measure was a complicated one, and he asked either that the second reading be postponed, or that ample time be allowed before the Committee was taken—-unless the Government would adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz), which, he considered, would be a much better course to follow. It was especially necessary that full consideration should be given to the measure, as it proposed to take away the present optional use of the metrical system. Everyone must be aware how weights varied about the country; while the different denominations of capacity by which grain was quoted were most anomalous. He hoped the Government would consent to the whole question being referred to a Committee.


said, it was most important to know how far the existing system of weights and measures was to be affirmed for the future. He had a list, showing that there were in use throughout the country no less than 14 different varieties of stone, varying from 5 to 20 lbs. A stone of one article was one weight, and a stone of another article a second weight, and so on. Consolidation of the law was a good thing; but such a Bill as that before the House ought to be amending as well. The question was one for a Select Committee to deal with.


also agreed that the question should be referred to a Committee; for, if the Bill were assented to, in its present form, it would give the stamp of legality to the varying system of weights and measures, which was creating so much annoyance to the commercial community throughout the country.


Of course, I can quite understand that if a Bill of this sort were to be fully and fairly discussed upon second reading, it might give rise to a lengthy debate, upon which it would be unwise to enter at so late an hour of the evening; but, I think, there seems to be a general opinion that the Bill is not one that admits of discussion on its principle —that being that it is desirable to consolidate the law relating to weights and measures. The real question is how we should deal with the matter in detail. My hon. Friend the Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. E. Stanhope) thinks it would be a by no means inconvenient course to accept the suggestion of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) to refer the Bill to a small Select Committee, who would set to work, with the assistance of the draftsmen of the Bill, and go through it in a businesslike way. I hope the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) will withdraw his Motion for the adjournment of the debate, and allow the Bill to be read a second time. My hon. Friend will then move that it be referred to a Select Committee, and will take steps to have it so considered.


agreed in the necessity for referring the Bill to a Select Committee.


said, he should be happy to withdraw his Amendment after the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed to a Select Committee.