§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ *MR. STRAUS (Tower Hamlets, Mile End)
im moving the Second Reading of the Weights and Measures (Metric System) Bill, said the question was one of very great moment, but he would endeavour to deal with its history as briefly as possible. He would only go back as far as 1895 when, as the House would remember, a Select Committee sat to consider the question. He would read to the House its recommendations—
Two of the recommendations, (a) and (c), had already been adopted, and (b) alone remained to be carried. Some people said—and with a certain amount of truth—that there was prejudice against the metric system on account of its foreign origin. But the system was not of foreign origin; its originator was one of the greatest Englishmen this country 1313 ever produced—James Watt. France showed herself sensible and acute enough to adopt it, and other countries had followed her example. It had been adopted in every European country with the exception of Russia and Great Britain. [An HON. Member: And the United States.] The United States was not a European power. This measure was supported in almost all parts of the Empire, and the Colonies, he believed, were firmly in favour of it. If the Second Reading were passed, it would give the Colonial Premiers at the forthcoming Conference an opportunity of expressing their opinion. In 1902 the Colonial Premiers passed a Resolution strongly in favour of the metric system. New Zealand, Australia, Cape Colony, Transvaal, Orange River Colony, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Ceylon had all passed similar recommendations. He did not think there was a Member of the House who would say that our present system was a perfect one; very few would even claim that it was a good system, but, of course, there were some who were always opposed to anything new. Such opposition, however, was as old as the hills. When the scheme was proposed for Germany, they were told that it would ruin the trade of that country and kill its engineering industry. According to Sir William Ramsay, it did not take more than a fortnight to adopt the whole system after it became compulsory. Why should not the same thing occur in England? Speaking in the House of Lords in 1904 Earl Spencer said—
- (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.I am afraid we often say, and say with some truth, that the Germans are a much better educated people than ourselves; but I will not for a moment believe that the people of this country are so uneducated that they will be behind the Germans in understanding a change which will conduce so much to the benefit of the country.In 1904 a measure similar to that now before the House was passed through all its stages in the House of Lords. The alterations in this Bill were very slight indeed. It was proposed that the metric system should become compulsory after a period of three years; the 1904 Bill proposed that the period should be two years. There was no reason why the period should not be extended still further and, after all, that was a matter for the Committee to consider. He thought 1314 everybody would admit that we suffered great disadvantages under the present system. That was shown by the number of petitions which had been received in support of the proposed change. The London County Council passed a resolution in favour of the measure which came before the House of Lords. The signatures to the petitions which had been presented in support of this Bill included many town and borough councils, and amongst others—Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd.; Vickers, Son & Maxim. Ltd.; Siemens Bros. &. Co., Ltd.; The Tyne Shipbuilding Co., Ltd.; Stothert &. Pitt, Ltd.; Thomas Bolton & Sons, Ltd.; Sir David Salomons, Bart.; H. Rossell & Co., Ltd.; and F. Wintour, Works Manager of the G.N.R., Doncaster. One of the petitions was signed by the following engineers and representatives of kindred trades:—Babcock & Wilcox, Ltd., boiler makers; Rudge Whitworth, Ltd., Coventry; Cleveland Bridge Co. Ltd., Darlington; Aveling & Porter, Ltd., Rochester; Oliver Bury, General Manager, G.N. Railway; District Iron & Steel Co., Ltd., Smethwick; Ruston Proctor & Co., Ltd., Lincoln; Professor Kapp, Professor of Engineering at Birmingham University; Professor F. W. Burstell, Professor of Engineering at Birmingham University; Brampton & Sons. Ltd., Oliver Street Works, Birmingham; Thomas Bolton & Sons, Ltd.; Alex Siemens; Hoffman Manufacturing Co., Ltd.; Hans Renold, Ltd., Progress Works, Manchester; Frank Cooper, M.I.N.A.; Benjamin Hooker, M.I.M.E., Blackhorse Lane, Walthamstow; District Engineer of L. &. S. W. Rly., Clapham Junction; Director and Engineers of North British Locomotive Co., Ltd.; John H. Pease, ironmaster, Darlington; Sir John Jackson, contractor; Howard Fox, Chairman of Falmouth Dock Co.; S. M. Dixon and Frank H. Hummell, Civil Engineers, Birmingham University; and Walter Kent, High Holborn. The petition had also been signed on behalf of many of the railway companies. Lord Kelvin, a leader in the movement, was one of the first to sign a petition in favour of the Bill. A great many of the trade unions of the country were also in favour of it. The petitions which had been presented to the House contained considerably over 32,000 1315 names, and with more time that number could easily have been doubled or trebled. He had no doubt that the promoters of the Bill would be told that it was not desired in any part of the country, and particularly in the textile districts. He could mention a great many textile firms who were strongly in favour of the measure. Among the textile manufacturers who had signed a petition in favour of the Bill were:—Tom Garnett, J.P., Clitheroe; M. Godlee, Wilmslow; Frank Holroyd, Elland; J. Ainscow, Bolton; J. T. Whipp, Clitheroe; John Holden, Clitheroe; A. W. Whitley, Halifax; J. K. Caird, Dundee; Eawden, Briggs & Co., Dewsbury: Day & Fox, Dewsbury; Marshall, Kaye & Marshall, Ltd., Dewsbury; H. A. Aykroyd & Co., Ltd., Liversedge; T. F. Firth & Sons, Ltd., Heckmondwike; Geo. Roberts & Co., Ltd., Selkirk: Thos. Purdy & Sons, Batley; Jos. Newsome & Sons, Batley; Geo. Ellis, Dewsbury; C. J. Johnston, Elgin; and W. Welsh, Elgin. It seemed to him peculiar that amongst those who had notices on the Paper of their intention to move the rejection of the Bill was an hon. Gentleman who was chairman of a limited company who had petitioned in favour of it.
There were three reasons why it was desirable that the metric system should be made compulsory in this country, namely, first, the loss of time and money in business and trade in our own country; second, the most serious waste of time in the education of all classes; and, third, the loss to our commerce with other countries owing to our system of weights and measures being incomprehensible to them and absurdly complicated. The measures mostly used by us at the present moment were the inch, foot, yard, furlong, and mile. Most people had some idea of what those measures meant. Then there were also nails, palms, hands, links, cubits, paces, fathoms, rods, poles, or perches, and chains, but few had much knowledge of them.
In connection with some industries the inch was divided by decimals, and he thought that was a very good idea. But when they divided the inch into 64th and 128ths they could see the absurdity of the present system. 1316 For instance, if they were asked to add 3¼ inches, 2⅛ inches, 1 7/16 inches, and 39/64 inch, there was probably not a Member of the House who could make the addition mentally, and although they might be able to do it on paper there would be serious risk of mistake, to say nothing of the waste of time. But in countries where the metric system had been adopted such an addition could be easily done without using pencil or paper. He would not weary the House by mentioning all the names of measures of capacity, dry and liquid. The whole of the names did not apply to dry and liquid measures, and they had no precise connection with their cubic capacities expressed in inches. For instance, the pint contained 34.66 cubic inches. There was also an apothecaries' fluid measure in which drachms and minims were imported. There was no co-ordination under our present system. It was when they came to weights, avoirdupois, troy, and apothecaries, that the fun began. A seam of glass was 120 lb. A seam of straw in Devon equalled 200 lbs. A seam of hay in the same county was 373 lbs. He asked the House to note the figure 373. It was a prime number it was not divisible by any other existing whole number. They could neither have an exact half, nor a fourth, nor a sixteenth, nor a thirty-second, nor any ordinary fraction whatsoever. And that was defended by the people who feared that when the decimals came they would all get into muddles in sub-divisions, when everything was ten times something else or a tenth part of it. The brain reeled before this huge edifice of unmitigated absurdities. Why should there be 24¾ cubic feet to the solid porch of mason's work, and only 12⅜ cubic feet if it was brickwork? No wonder the British workman went on strike. He sympathised. He must mention a few more curious features of our ordinary methods of weighing and measuring. An ounce of coffee weighed 437½ grains. An ounce of silver was 480 grains, or 42½ grains heavier. Silly enough! When was an ounce not an ounce? When it was another ounce. A pound of coffee weighed 7,000 grains; a pound of silver 5,760 grains. Thus a pound of coffee was 1,240 grains heavier than the silver. But let them note the 1317 inversion. First the silver ounce was heavier, then the coffee pound was heavier. Did the House know that 144 lb. avoirdupois equalled 175 lb. troy, one ounce avoirdupois equalled 437½ grains, and one ounce troy equalled 480 grains. The avoirdupois drachm was 27⅓½ grains while the apothecaries drachm was 60 grains. Was this not absurd? He doubted whether there was one Member of the House who could say how many legal stone weights there were in the country at present. He knew of five, but he was told there were seven. There was the ordinary stone of 14 lb., the Speaker's weight or his own, but a stone of meat amounted to only 8 lb. a stone of cheese 16 lb., a stone of hemp 32 lb., a stone of glass 5lb. Not long ago he heard of a case in which a man bought a stone of meat and took it to his wife. She looked at it and said it did not weigh 14 lb. He replied, "Ah, they have had me again, a stone of meat of course, is only 8 lb." Some years ago Lord Kelvin was making experiments in regard to explosives and for that purpose had to use certain ingredients. He was told that he had to use certain quantities, but on account of some confusion arising out of the difference between grains avoirdupois weight and grains apothecaries' weight, he almost made a mistake which would have resulted in his being blown to smithereens. In his own words, to quote from his speech in another place—While experimenting I was very nearly blown up, in which event I should not have been here today supporting the adoption of the metric system. Two and a quarter drachms was the proper weight, but I had weighed out two and a quarter drachms of sixty grains. I thought it appeared rather large. I looked up the matter and discovered the mistake just in time to prevent the rifle exploding and killing me. I have a strong recollection of my feelings as to the danger arising owing to the resemblance in name of two weights drawn from different tables.In Worcestershire a pot was equal to four pecks, while in other counties a pot varied from 64 to 94 lb. A bushel of potatoes in Cornwall was 224lb., in Nottingham 84 lb. In several places apples were quoted at 16lb. to the peck, potatoes 20 lb,, and pears 18lb. He hoped he had shown the absurdity of our present anomalous system, and the desirability of making some change. As to the waste of time in the education of 1318 children, he believed it was recognised that at least two years of school life were wasted through children having to learn our antiquated and ridiculous system of weights and measures. That time could be used to more advantage in teaching subjects which would better equip children for fighting the ordinary battle of life. An eminent French schoolmaster had stated that their system of weights and measures could be taught in 20 hours and it took 400 hours to get an idea of the English antiquated system. The whole metric system could be stated in seventy-two words, whereas our system of weights and measures required some thousands of words, and even then there were very few who understood it. There were very few educated people in the country who pretended to know our system of weights and measures properly, and they recognised that it was so ridiculous that it was not worth while wasting time learning it. Must it not befog the mind of a child to be told that there were sixteen ounces in a pound, and then to be told next day that there were only twelve ounces in the pound? The child thought that he was either being humbugged or "got at." As to the third reason why the metric system should be adopted, he said that if they looked at the Consular Reports they found that practically in every instance there was the same remark, namely, that the causes of the fall in trade was largely due to the competition of other countries, and the refusal of the British manufacturer to adopt the metric system of weights and measures. Perhaps he would incur some displeasure from his friends in the opposite camp if he said that were he to meet a man whose particular bent was the absorption and assimilation of unending tables of British weights and measures he would have a great contempt for his intelligence. Why? Because the human mind should be a gem casket and not a lumber room. A friend who knew the system well had written him a letter containing the following—As an instance of the practical uselessness of your measure as regards the yarn trade, I can give you my experience in France at the time when the Cobden treaty was made. In 1862 when it came into force, I went at once to France to see what could be done for the old firm. The French manufacturers admitted almost unanimously that we could supply cotton yarns somewhat cheaper than their own spinners, 1319 but they preferred to pay a little more money than to have all the bother of calculating English weights and measures into French metres and counts. The trade refused to buy our products and has, I am pretty certain, adhered to it up to this day. The Board of Trade Return will confirm my statement.He would state what the metric system was. The basis was the metre. The metre was divided into 100 centimetres, or 1,000 millimetres, and these sub-divisions were used by different trades according to the degree of accuracy required. A thousand metres made one kilometre—a very convenient measure for distances—being about five furlongs. The measure of surface or area commenced with a square metre—10,000 square metres made a hectare, which was equal to about 2½ acres. There was an intermediate measure called an are, containing 100 square metres and 100 ares made a hectare. The are was a quarter of an acre. Cubic measure, or measure of capacity, whether for liquids or grain, had its basis in the litre. A litre was the cube of the tenth part of a metre, or the cube of ten centimetres. One thousand litres made a cubic metre, while the 1,000 part of a litre was a cubic centimetre, so they had a simple co-ordination between measures of length and measures of capacity. The system of weight was equally in agreement. The weight of a litre of water was a kilogramme, that was to say 1,000 grammes. A cubic centimetre of water weighed one gramme. For larger weights, they had 1,000 kilogrammes, equal to a metric ton, and that was the weight of a cubic metre of water. That was splendidly simple for the engineer, builder or manufacturer. They had only to know the specific gravity of any material, and they knew that a cubic metre of such material weighed that specific gravity in tons, or the cubic centimetre of any substance weighed its own specific gravity in grammes.
Clause 1 of the Bill proposed that on and after 1st April, 1910, or such later date as might be fixed by a postponing order, the kilogramme and the metre should be the imperial standards of weight and measure. Clause 2 authorised the making of Parliamentary copies. Clause 3 sought to enact that all future dealings involving weight or measure should be in terms of the metric system, and imposed a penalty not exceeding 40s. for each 1320 offence against the provisions of the clause, but excepted (1) contracts made before the commencement of the Act; (2) contracts with persons outside the United Kingdom;(3) any trade or business for the time being exempted by order in Council. Clause 4 enacted that all references in existing Acts of Parliament, orders, by-laws, etc., to existing weights and measures should be deemed to apply to equivalent metric weights and measures, but gave the Board of Trade power to make provisional orders removing any inconvenience caused by the change. Clause 5 applied the provisions of the existing Weights and Measures Acts to the metric weights and measures. Clause 6 related to the provision of local standards. Clause 7 gave the Board of Trade general power to take steps for facilitating the transition. Clause 8 repealed some enactments inconsistent with the Bill. Clause 9 related to Board of Trade standards. Clause 10 gave the short title "Weights and Measures (Metric System) Act, 1907."He would be told that this was a drastic measure. He admitted that there were clauses which might be amended in Committee. He quite agreed that the three years proposed as the period of time which should elapse before the metric system became compulsory might be too short. He also agreed that there might be some trades which must be exempted. There was no reason why they should not be. He would be glad to see a clause inserted providing that any trade which desired to be exempted from the Act should have an opportunity of presenting its case to the Board of Trade. If it could show proper and sufficient cause, it should be exempted. The penalty of 40s. could also be altered. There was no system of weights and measures better than the metric system. It was universal. It was used, practically speaking, in all the civilised countries of the world. There would undoubtedly be many objections to the Bill. He would like to say at once that he appreciated and sympathised with the opposition of Manchester. As a native of Lancashire he acknowledged that any opposition that came from Manchester deserved attention. All the arguments which he had heard as to the effect of the metric system on the 1321 textile industry made for one thing, and one thing alone, and that was exemption. He had not heard anyone who opposed the Bill say one word against the system. That, he believed, was because they could not say anything against it. He believed that at the present moment the opposition to this measure was very much exaggerated, and but for the textile industries of Lancashire there would be practically no opposition. Lancashire industries did not want this change because at the moment they were so prosperous, but their argument was not sufficiently strong to prevent any Member from voting for the Second Reading. So far as he could make out the only industry opposed to the measure was the textile industry. The bulk of the engineering trade had not only signed the petition in favour of the Bill which he had presented to the House, but they were strongly in favour of it. [Cries of "No, no!"] Yes, such firms as Vickers, Son & Maxim, Armstrong & Whitworth, Mather & Platt, Kynochs & Co., and others, who represented the largest and best firms as far as the engineering industry was concerned, were in favour of the Bill. [Cries of "No!"] He heard from hon. Gentlemen opposite cries of "No" but those "Noes" were not borne out by the petitions which he had received or by the letters which had been sent to him congratulating him upon the introduction of the Bill. The benefits of the metric system had been fully realised in Germany and France, and he felt sure the hon. Member opposite who cried out "No" would be one of the first to regret, after it had been in operation a few years, that the reform was not carried out years ago. Even the trades desiring exemption had nothing to say against the metric system, and the bulk of the engineering industry was enthusiastically favourable to it. If it were urged that the metric system was not understood, he replied that the public did not understand the present system.
The public bought articles at so much per pound and very often they bought, say, 2 lb. 13 oz. Were they able to reckon the correct price themselves? Those who went a good deal amongst the working classes knew how difficult it was for them to check the weights and measures and the prices of the goods they bought There could be no doubt that 1322 our system lent itself much more easily to fraud. He was told that the Government authorities would not be able to reckon properly because custom was paid per pound, but that was a ridiculous argument. After all, an article like tea, which had to pay duty at so much per pound came in tons or cwts. and it would be just as easy to cast up the duty under the metric system as under the present antiquated arrangement. The present system existed because they had not had the courage in the past to adopt a more suitable one. Upon that point he would quote Mr. Arthur Chamberlain, the Chairman of Kynock's Ltd.—A business man who objects to taking the trouble involved in improving his system had better retire at once. There is no room to-day for business men who are not capable of taking trouble, and as a matter of fact the trouble involved in the preliminary change will not represent one hundredth part of the trouble we continuously suffer from under the old confused system.He did not wish to delay the House, but before he resumed his seat he would like to give the views of those who were more competent than himself to express an opinion on this question. Speaking in another place in 1904 Lord Roseberry said—I attach so much importance to this change that I believe if you carry it out it will be of infinitely more advantage to the commerce of the country than all the fiscal remedies proposed by official or non-official Members of the Government.Of course, Lord Rosebery was referring to the late Government. In the same debate Lord Lansdowne used the following words—We are all agreed that the existing system—if indeed it is worthy of the name of a system—is one to which overwhelming objections can be urged. It is distracting to learners and obstructive to trade, home and foreign, and it is probably advantageous to no one, unless it be to the dishonest trader, who is able to profit by the confusion which prevails.One of the best phrases used in regard to the subject had come from that past master of phrases, the Leader of the Opposition, who in addressing a deputation in 1895 said that—The present system of weights and measures was arbitrary, perverse and utterly irrational.He did not think the right hon. Gentleman ever made a truer statement in his life than that.
1323 An objection was that the change would throw upon traders in general, and especially on the small trader, an expense which it would be unfair to saddle them with. The reply to this was that the small village shopkeeper who used a 7-lb. set of iron weights would obtain new ones for about 2s. 6d., while those using a 7-lb. set of brass weights would be put to the expense of about 16s. over and above the value which would be given for the obsolete weights. When it came to large houses of business, or to railway companies and factories, the saving effected by the simplification of accounts on the metric system would quickly compensate for any expense on weights and weighing machines. Of course there was no need to make the measure compulsory except say after the expiration of five years. The advantages of the new system would be considerably more than any hon. Member of the House could possibly anticipate. He apologised to hon. Members for keeping them so long. He had not intended to occupy so much time, but he had been rather carried away with his subject and he hoped the importance of the question would be a sufficient excuse. He would now give way to those who understood the question better than he, and who were more accustomed to the procedure of the House. He wished to say, however, that there were no hon. Members in the House who were more earnestly in favour of the measure and who believed more truly than he did that if the House of Commons adopted it the Bill would prove to be for the benefit of great masses of the people. There was not a man in the House or out of it who, when the Bill had been the law of the land for a short time, would not be pleased with its results, or would regret that it had become an Act of Parliament. There were no doubt those who would vote against the Bill, but he ventured to say that in their heart of hearts they would regret that it was not the law of the land when they were children, as it would have saved them many weary hours of useless work. He thanked the House for the kind attention they had given to him, and he had much pleasure in moving the Second Reading.
§ *SIR H. NORMAN (Wolverhampton, S.),
in seconding the Motion, said that his hon. friend who had moved the Second Reading had covered so much of the ground that there was little left for him to say. He would therefore confine his remarks rather to answering certain objections which were likely to be urged. His hon. friend had spoken at some length upon, and had most truly described, the present anarchy which existed in regard to weights and measures. If his hon. friend had chosen to take up more time he could have gone into much greater detail and shown that the confusion which at present existed was even much greater than he had pointed out. He held in his hand a long list of all the extraordinary weights and measures which were at present in use in this country. There were 200 different weights and measures in this country far dealing with corn alone. The first requisite of any system of weights and measures was that it should be simple, and the second that it should be universally applicable; but our weights and measures were the most complicated the world had ever seen; and they varied according to what was to be measured or weighed. He did not suppose there was a single inhabitant in the country who knew all the weights and measures in common use and he wondered how many hon. Members even remembered some of the simpler tables which they were taught with so much difficulty and so much suffering at school. He would read to the House an extract from a leading Colonial paper, the Melbourne Age, and it was important to notice that Colonial opinion in regard to this question was more enlightened than our own. The extract was as follows—In this twentieth century the table for lengths sounds almost crazy in its eccentricities—12 inches 1 foot, 3 feet 1 yard, 5½ yards 1 rod, 25 links 1 rod, 22 yards or 4 rods 1 chain, 10 chains 1 furlong, 8 furlongs 1 mile. In the surface table the absurdity culminates in the relations 144 square inches 1 square foot,9 square feet, 1 square yard, 30¼ square yards 1 perch, 40 perches 1 rood. 4 roods 1 acre, and 640 acres 1 square mile. The bare recital of these tables proves them to be freakish barbarisms and anachronisms that are quite intolerable.That was the way the existing system of weights and measures in this country struck our fellow-subjects in Melbourne. 1325 To waste so much time in mastering our present tables of weights and measures was to squander our most precious national asset, the efficiency of the rising generation. In years to come our descendants would look back on our weights and measures exactly as we looked back on the savage's methods of counting by notches on his spear or by shells. Common-sense and patriotism alike demanded reform. The hon. Member, although he had so ably explained the metric system, had done so with needless complication. It was entirely contained in a little bit of metal which he held in his hand, a steel rule which Lord Kelvin had described as the key to the metric system. Any intelligent adult, or even child, who would devote ten minutes to its study could master it. He had tried the experiment on a boy of nine, and had found ten minutes quite enough for him to grasp its essential principles and answer intelligently and correctly questions about it made intentionally difficult. The rule was one millimetre thick, one centimetre wide, ten centimetres long; ten of them made a metre; 1,000 a kilometre. From its cube was derived the measures of capacity and weight. The infinite advantage of the metric system was that all its weights and measures were closely co-related. The importance of this, particularly to the engineering trades and in constructive work, could not possibly be exaggerated. It would be possible, too, with the metric system to do much of the calculation mechanically, and there could be no doubt that if the system became universal in this country a great deal of the calculation, not only in workshops and offices, but also in retail trades, would be done rapidly and with absolute accuracy by a mechanical counting machine. That would mean a great saving of time, and time meant money, but more than money, it meant rest, leisure, education, literature, art, music. These could be enjoyed by those who were fortunate enough to save time, and the metric system would be one of the greatest time savers. They were asking the House by this Bill, not merely to facilitate trade and simplify commercial transactions, but to set free children's minds, and so in a marked degree to extend the area of our civilisation. He desired to state the objections frankly. There was first the 1326 general objection based on the inconvenience and expense involved by the change. The reply was simple. Reform always meant trouble and expense to some one, and every new tax cost some one something that he would rather keep in his pocket. The only question they had to consider was whether the goal was worth the effort, or the hill worth the climb. These general objections rested upon apathy and upon our feeling of insularity. We had certain measures which had been used for a great many years, and were connected with the greatest trade in the world; it was easier to do nothing than to alter them. The second class of objection came from those who believed we could have a decimal system without having a metric system. The chief exponent was a distinguished friend of his, Mr. Thomas Parker, an eminent electrician, who had invented a system called the decimal inch. The more that system was examined, however, the more illogical and contradictory it appeared, and certainly if we were to put ourselves to the trouble and expense of changing our system we ought to select that which was in use by nearly all the civilised countries. When it was argued that the expense of the change would be very great, he would ask how it was that it was so easily adopted in Germany. It was said that its introduction would make many weights and measures and machines useless. No doubt; but railways made stage coaches useless, motors were superseding horse traction, and internal combustion engines steam engines. But Lord Kelvin was of opinion that the metric system did not involve the displacement of any useful machinery, and Mr. Arthur Chamberlain, who had recently introduced the system at Kynoch's, had said that the cost was insignificant, and would probably be covered by the saving in clerical work. Many machines could be adapted without difficulty. A well-known and respected Member of the House, who was head of an engineering business, had said to him yesterday—Your Bill would render useless all my patterns, templets, metals, gauges, going back half a century.That was an extraordinary remark. If those patterns, etc., went back half a century, it was high time they 1327 were scrapped. Amongst all the supporters of the measure there were nine more enthusiastic than the inspectors of weights and measures. They had to consider the matter every day in their lives, and they were all the strongest supporters of the metric system. Mr. Street, the chief inspector of weights and measures in London, said—I have always been of opinion that the little difficulties and expense which would be incurred by the transition would be more than compensated by the easier and greater facilities gained in our commercial transactions with our foreign neighbours.It would be interesting to consider how far the objections of the engineering trade were to be taken seriously. If they were really to be taken seriously, he would like to read a few extracts from the opinions expressed by great representatives of the trade. Mr. Hans Renold, manufacturing engineer, of the Progress Works, Manchester, a firm employing over 500 men, said—'If we were not slavishly conservative, the metric system would long ago have become our national system.Mr. G. B. Hunter, Chairman of Messrs. Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd., said—Any expense or inconvenience caused by the adoption of the metric system in connection with shipbuilding business would be trifling and would be far outweighed by the advantage of the improved system in our home business and in foreign negotiations.The General Electric Company said—At our Witton Engineering Works as well as at our Carbon Works, we have for the last live years introduced the metric system. We shall at all times be glad to give you every possible assistance.Sir Joseph Crossfield & Sons, Ltd. said—As a practical example the metric system has been adopted within the works.Burroughs & Welcome said—We have for many years past strongly recommended the adoption of the metric system of weights and measures, believing it to be the only rational system for commercial as well as for scientific purposes.Liberty & Co., with a knowledge of both the English and French systems, said—We have a very important branch of our business in Paris, and therefore use both systems, the metric and English. We can therefore speak with authority on the advantages of the decimal system, both in regard to measures and 1328 coinage, and we look forward to the reform which the Decimal Association is striving for, to end our present cumbrous and wasteful method.Mr. S. Whiteley, Principal of Whiteley's Business Training College, Sheffield, said—It is with great pleasure that I can testify to the increasing use of the metric system by all firms in this city having a foreign trade; in fact, a knowledge of the metric weights and measures is fast becoming an absolute necessity to workmen engaged in the various mechanical trades of Sheffield.The head of Whitman & Barnes Manufacturing Co., U.S.A., said—It seems impossible that men could be found who would not immediately see the advantage of the use of mm. gauges, when it is considered that the use of the mm. sizes steadily increases, that all foreign countries, with the exception of the United States and England, are pushing forward, and have found the mm. system most valuable and preferable to the old system of inches and feet, which have been a source of trouble in all countries.There were any number of these illustrations which he could read, and they made one really doubt whether the alleged objections which were said to come from the engineering trade could be taken as serious. In the electrical trade the metrical system was used entirely, the electrical standards were only expressible by metric measures, and it seemed to him clear that not only the engineering trade, but the whole trade throughout the country would reap incalculable benefit from the adoption of the sytsem. One other objection made was that in France, the home of the decimal system, the old-fashioned measures were largely in use, but that was not so. The old-fashioned names were in use, but not the weights and measures—there was the livre, half a kilo, and the sou, but that was now five centimes. If everybody used the word sou everyone would understand that it meant five centimes. It was absurd to say that the metric system was not universal for all industries, and it was absurd to say that France was not satisfied with the metric system. If any hon. Member doubted that let him suggest to any intelligent Frenchman that they should go back to the old weights and measures, and hear the reply that he would give. Then there came a very serious objection, to which the hon. Member for Clitheroe had referred, namely, 1329 that it was impossible to apply the metric system to the textile trade. If that was so, how was it that so many took the contrary view? Mr. Ernest B. Fry, Shipley, Yorkshire, Consulting Textile Expert and Examiner in Woollen and Worsted Spinning to the City and Guilds of London, said—Some of the opponents of the metric system instance the use of the English textile standards for counts, etc., in some of the Continental factories, and this has undoubtedly arisen because of the large proportion of English machinery in use in these factories and the very large quantity of English yarns sent out to these countries, but this is a very poor reason for perpetuating these innumerable standards; but, on the other hand, I know personally of instances here in which managers in the mills make the whole of their calculations on a metric basis because of its simplicity, and then convert their results into English standards for use in the mills. There are also many warehouses in the Bradford district where the metric system has been in regular use for several years. A great deal too much is made of the supposed difficulty which would occur in making an alteration, but I am strongly of opinion that within a few months of its compulsory adoption it would be working with the greatest smoothness in nearly every case, and with far less cost in changing than its opponents make out.That gentleman professed to be speaking of his own knowledge. Then there was Mr. Rowlett, ex-President and present Vice-President of the Leicester Chamber of Commerce, and Examiner for the City and Guilds of London Institute, agent for yarn and India-rubber thread; he said—I consider the adoption of the metric system of weights and measures in this country not only desirable but absolutely necessary.And further on he said—The objectors to the metric system make much capital out of the fact that the metric countries have not yet been successful in introducing metric numbers of yarn (1,000 metres per kilogramme and per number; thus, No. 25–25,000 meters per kilo—into general use. As a member of the permanent Committee of the Congrats international pour l' unification du numerotage des fils, I am in a position to state that this failure is entirely due to opposition from England and America.And further on—and this appeared to be a very important point—The spinner objects that if he spun metric numbers he would have to alter his machinery at considerable cost; but this is quite a fallacy. There is no difficulty in spinning half numbers and even quarter numbers, but there is an impossibility of spinning always exactly the same number, and this is so well recognised in the textile world that a variation of quarter number 1330 above or below, equal to half number is always allowed. In spinning, it is always possible, without any expense, to get within this margin of the metric count, and even, in many cases to substitute the English one without any change.He was not able to say whether that was so or not, but it was given on high authority, and went a long way to disprove the contention that the metric system was not adapted for the textile trade. Mr. Rowlett continued—This proves that the difficulty of supplying metric numbers is only imaginary, and the remark applies to worsted, flax, etc., also.That gentleman pointed out how we were losing certain markets for yarns through not using the metric system; he said—It is a fact that during recent years a large import trade in French and Belgian unbleached cotton yarns has sprung up, and their competition threatens to become serious.And further that—The long-suffering wait for the metric system will, it is to be hoped, be materially shortened by the recent action of the East Indian buyers of silk and woollen yarns. Our conservative methods have cost this country nearly the whole of the custom of these gentlemen, and several of them now refuse to have anything to do with British goods unless the makers adopt the metric system of counts. The Indian Government is, in consequence, considering the question of legalising the Continental system and of getting British manufacturers to adopt it.Then there was a gentleman, the author of a book called the "Principles of Worsted Spinning," and "Principles of Wool Combing," who said—It may interest you to know that, in writing my book on 'Principles of Worsted Spinning, 'I was driven to adopt a decimal system, in the chapter on drawing, from sheer inability to explain what should be the relation of various weights in various processes, by any other method.And further on—For those reasons I am convinced that the introduction of the metric system into the worsted trade would tend to greater lucidity and simplicity, which would quickly repay both employers and employed if it were only properly understood.He was, of course, not able to say what weight ought to be given to these opinions, but they merited some reply. But if it were the fact that the duo-decimal system was necessary for the textile trade or for a large part of the textile trade the duodecimal system might remain; therefore 1331 if the promoters of the Bill were willing to meet the representatives of the textile industry in such a way as to enable them to be exempted, under whatever conditions were found to be proper, from the metric system—and he was sure they would be—the arguments against it would be robbed of a great deal of their force, and they might obtain the support of the hon. Member for Clitheroe. He had not spoken of the foreign trade, but as everyone knew, our Consular Reports abounded with appeals to the British merchants to adopt the metric system. The Consular Report of Brazil said—The English system of weights and measures is a great drawback to obtaining the proper recognition in Brazil of the qualities of articles of British manufacture.The monthly journal of the British Chamber of Commerce in Egypt said with regard to iron and iron goods—England practically is entirely out of the trade.The British standards do not suit the market.The Consular Report of Algiers said—One of the greatest drawbacks to British trade in this colony is the antiquated system of British weights and measures.These quotations could be largely multiplied. There were, of course, objections. Anyone could find objections to everything. There must be a certain amount of controversy in a matter of this kind, but he respectfully submitted that the advantages overwhelmed the objections, the gain would vastly exceed the loss, and the convenience would be so great that the inconvenience was not worth considering. A large part of the trade of the manufacturers of this country was done with the Colonies, and we were shortly to have a conference of the Colonial Premiers; therefore it was most desirable that by a Second Reading of this Bill freedom should be given for the discussion of the matter at the Colonial Conference. Scientific men were with the supporters of the movement; the greater part of the modern trade was with them; it was certain that the time wanted it, and it was inevitable that the reform would be effected sooner or later. A great opportunity was offered to the House in the duty which it seemed to him lay before them. It was a simple duty, an educational duty, a 1332 commercial duty, and a patriotic duty. Some day some House of Commons would pass this reform. Let the present be that House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time." (Mr. Straus.)
§ *Mr. HAWORTH (Manchester, S.)
said that those who opposed this Bill were accused by its mover of being mere obscurantists, and against the reform because it was a reform. From the beginning he wanted to make it clear that neither he nor those who saw with him in the matter based their opposition on any suchthing. It had been assumed that they considered the present system an almost perfect system incapable of any reform. They took up no such attitude. They admitted there were many anomalies, and they were quite ready to sit down with the mover and seconder of the Bill and see whether it was not possible to do something towards standardising the weights and measures of the country. They might introduce a system of decimals into the present system of weights and measures, and everybody would admit that the calculation by decimals rather than by fractions saved time and facilitated calculation. Whether it tended always to accuracy was a matter they might argue at some future time. Those who worked in decimals knew what stupendous mistakes were made by placing the decimal point in a wrong position, and it was easy to place it in a wrong position in a long row of figures. In what position did the question stand to-day? It was surrounded and crowded, with an enormous amount of misunderstanding. The Bill had behind it an association called the "Decimal Association," according to the letter heading of which the association was established to promote the adoption of a decimal system of weights, measures, and coinage in the United Kingdom. The Bill assumed to change every weight and measure in the land, and left out one of the objects of the association, which was to promote a decimal system of coinage. He commended the secretary of that association for the wonderful ingenuity he had displayed 1333 for months and years past in obtaining signatures, from those who might be supposed to agree with it, in favour of the metric system. The request was sent out with that heading on the paper, and hon. Members had given their names as being in favour of a metric system under an entire misapprehension owing to the letter heading.
§ *MR. HAWORTH
said one hon. Member who was asked before the Bill was published whether he would favour it, wrote and asked by what authority his name was included among those supporting it and the secretary of the association eventually admitted that the letter did not bear the interpretation that had been placed upon it. As the hon. Member for Wolverhampton had referred by name to his hon. friend the Member for Clitheroe, he might mention that the hon. Member's name appeared, and he was going to second the Motion for the rejection of the Bill. The Chamber of Commerce for the City of Manchester had been in the habit every year of passing an abstract resolution in favour of the metric system, and it was only when it came within the region of practical politics that they sat down to consider the resolution, and on the last occasion they passed this old resolution with the following proviso—Provided you except the textile and engineering trades.In the district which he represented, if they excepted those two trades, there would be nothing left. The city corporation were also pressed by the Decimal Association to bring forward a resolution, but it was by no means universally accepted. He himself was told by a very highly respected member of the council, a past Lord Mayor, that if they had not thought it would not have come up for a great many years, they would not have passed the resolution. The Associated Chambers of Commerce, which had passed resolutions year after year in favour of a metric system, gave the matter their consideration only recently. It was heatedly discussed, and the resolution was finally rescinded. He 1334 also noticed from the Sheffield Independent that the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, after formerly approving it, had also met and passed an almost unanimous resolution against a metric system. The fact was that when passing those resolutions people thought that they were voting for a decimal coinage or for some system of working a decimal system into our present system of weights and measures, while retaining our present standards. No one would deny that the metric system was useful in such a thing as chemistry, or pure mathematics. When it was introduced into France, it was introduced in order to secure uniformity, because at the time of the Revolution there was a hopeless want of uniformity in weights and measures in that country. There was another reason for its introduction. At the time of the Revolution, it was thought that there should be a system which must be brand new, something which had never been seen before, and scientific men set to work to find such a standard as would be effective and at the same time new. But had that metric system succeeded in pushing its way and making itself uniform as the measure standard of the country in which it had been adopted? and what were its advantages? They had it on high authority that a wise man counted the cost before going to war. How much more would a wise man count the cost before making a change in that system which had brought this country to its present state of prosperity? The Manchester District Engineering Federation of Employers had passed a resolution deprecating any measure having for its object the compulsory use of the metric system. Since then he had received numerous letters from private firms. He had also received a letter from the Engineering Association at Wigan, asking him to give the strongest opposition to the Bill as being one of a most detrimental character to their trade. He had had a communication from a firm of engineers who said that for a portion of their work they had been using the metric system, but that they were strong opponents of the Bill, because for the major portion of their work it would be absolutely impracticable and disastrous.
§ *MR. HAWORTH
said he was simply giving the words of the engineers, and, after all, they knew their own business. They stated in their circular that every machine, gauge, templet, rule, and other devices constructed with regard to existing measurements would have to be discarded. That was the manner in which the engineers put forward their own case in the matter. But the position would be worse than having merely to discard the existing things; they would have to be practically duplicated throughout the length and breadth of their shops; plant would have to be kept for making all old screws, and so on, which would be required for repairs for the work which had been done within the past fifty years; while for new work they would require entirely new scales, gauges, etc. Reference had been made in the debate to various engineering firms. The Vice-President of the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company, Pittsburg, said the introduction of the metric system would produce no benefit to his company or most other companies, but would mean a loss in time, money, and efficiency for a considerable period. A prominent honorary official member of an engineering association had assured him that he believed that something like 80 to 90 per cent of the engineers of the country were against the Bill. The estimate put forward of the cost to the engineering trade alone was about £100,000,000 sterling.
§ SIR H. NORMAN
It was made by Mr. Thomas Parker, whom I quoted, and, when challenged by Lord Kelvin, he with drew it at once, and said he had no authority.
§ *MR. HAWORTH
said he would admit, then, that a hopeless mistake had been made. He had, however, consulted many engineers on the point. Mr. McFarland at Pittsburg calculated that it would cost £200,000, and the hon. Member for the Altrincham Division said that it would cost him £20,000, and his 1336 engineering works were comparatively small. But supposing that the estimate of £100,000,000 were exaggerated, and that the amount would not exceed £50,000,000, it was an enormous penalty to put upon the back of the engineering trade of the country. It had been calculated by various firms that it would cost from £10 to £15 per man to make the change. According to the Franklin Institute in America, one of the highest of such institutes in the world, it would cost from £30 to £120 per man. He would come to the paper trade, the Anglo-Saxon race concerned in which bought and sold by the pound weight and inch measure. A man in the trade could judge to a nicety the weight of paper by its feel. If the pound weight and inch measure were taken away the man's skill would be taken away. In regard to railway companies, apart from the changes that would be involved in the engineering department, a complete survey of the freights and rates would be necessary, and a re-arrangement would have to be made throughout the country. Parliament ought not to say to the railway companies that they must undertake such a work whatever it cost and whether they wanted it or not. In navigation and land geography great confusion would arise if the metric system were made compulsory. In shipping measurements of draught, displacement, and tonnage were almost universally on the British standard, and if altered in this country they would have to be altered all over the world, unless confusion was to be introduced in shipping, where harmony now prevailed. When a Bill was introduced in the House of Lords land was exempted. Hon. Members could please themselves about using that as an argument for showing that the Lords were astute and business-like, or that they were so selfish that they only looked after their own interests. But the inclusion of land within the Bill meant that all records of deeds of land had to be retranslated. Although it did not apply to old contracts, whenever an acre of land had to be conveyed it would require to be reconverted, and an infinite vista of trouble would be opened up. If for no other reason the House ought not to make the proposed change compulsory. The small shopkeeper's difficulty had 1337 been belittled, but in every tiny shop the little weights and measures at present in use would have to be done away with. Very few sets of weights and measures cost less than £1. With regard to the cotton trade, with which he was somewhat closely acquainted, it was admitted by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton that there was very considerable difficulty. The English measure of 840 yards was practically universal in the cotton trade. Countless millions in India and China had grown accustomed to the English measure. The great deputation consisting of 100 representatives of operatives in the textile trades and some eighty or ninety members of the Masters' Association was absolutely unanimous in protesting against the Bill's being made compulsory. The hon. Member for Mile End had mentioned some names of those who were against it, but knowing something of Lancashire and having been engaged in the business for a number of years, he was bound to say a number of the names mentioned he had never heard of. Mr. Tom Garnett, however, happened to be a personal friend of his, and when talking to him the other day he asked him where he was on this Bill. Mr. Garnett replied—In a kind of way we are all in favour of it theoretically, but I am dead against it as a manufacturing man.He did not know how the names had all been secured, but he had shown how many had been secured by a misunderstanding. As to the weaving trade, he had been told by a manufacturer that it would cost 30s. a loom to make the necessary alterations. There were 750,000 looms in Lancashire, and taking the cost at only £1a loom the Bill would put a penalty on the weaving trade of Lancashire of £750,000.
§ *MR. HAWORTH
said he was quite willing to be corrected if he were wrong, but he knew what he was talking about. It would be impossible to remove from the minds of countless users of Manchester cloth and yarn the suspicion that when the denominator was changed there would be something wrong with the weight. People would turn against the 1338 goods at once, and procure them from France or Germany or America. America especially would have a door opened to her to take away our present trade with India and China. He mentioned an instance in which goods were rejected in China because the stamp, which had been placed the wrong way up for years, was at last corrected. That showed the ignorance and superstitious frame of mind which it would be difficult to convince that the goods sent out under the metric system were the same as those sent out previously. To ask them to convert their present standards into millimetres was a ludicrous farce. Then there was the question of wages. Lancashire operatives received wages which were largely based on the length of cloth. It had taken years to build up those price lists, and the process had been marked by countless frictions, strikes, and threats of strikes. If they were now going to alter the standard they would destroy all those wage lists, and the work, with all its dangers from strikes and dislocations of business, would have to be gone through again. He ventured to say that there would be suspicion aroused, among both the masters and the men, and that there would be infinite danger of strikes, with their attendant miseries, taking place in Lancashire. All the records, too, would be wrong, and "repeat" orders would be impossible of fulfilment. The French system had broken down. The Minister of Commerce in France issued a circular last year to the various Chambers of Commerce in that country, stating that in spite of all that the Government could do, there was still a hopeless lack of uniformity in France, and appealing to the Chambers of Commerce to bring about, in their own districts at least, that which the Government, after 100 years, had failed to bring about. France adopted the metric system 100 years ago, when the industries of France were in their infancy, and even now uniformity had not been produced. How, then, was it possible to introduce the metric system into a country with a gigantic commerce like that of Great Britain? As showing the difficulty of establishing a new system, he pointed out that in France there were still three if not five denominations of silk, and not 1339 one was the metric system. Chaos still reigned abroad, as was proved by the frequent complaints received from Frenchmen and Germans engaged in the cotton industry, as to the hopeless want of uniformity in their own numbering of yarns for textiles. He also reminded the House that the recently revised German tariff for textiles had been made in English terms and not in metric terms. In Holland the metric system was taught in the schools, but in many cases the workman worked in English standards, and had to begin to learn after leaving school what an inch and a foot were. At home Willan & Robinson, electrical engineers, gave the metric system a trial for several years, but abandoned it because they found that the English system was more suitable to their work, in the United States Congress the proposal to make the metric system compulsory had been brought up three or four times. On the last occasion the proposal only received four votes. In America it had been legal to make contracts under the metric system since 1866, but comparatively few people had adopted it. Though the system had been legal in Canada since 1870, few had adopted it. Surely it was for the people of this country to be left to adopt it if they liked, the metric system having been made legal? They were told that thirty-seven out of forty countries had adopted the metric system. The miserable minority of three were Russia, the United States, and Great Britain. In population, and from the point of view of commerce, those three nations constituted a majority. The population of the countries which had been described as a "miserable minority" was 570,000,000, as against 450,000,000 in the countries which had adopted the metric system. The majority argument, therefore, fell to the ground. It was not for the majority mountain to budge an inch, but for the minority Mahomet to change his system and come into line with the rest of the world. He asked the House not to be led away by the notion that the present system was wasting the precious years of a child's school life. Only a very few weeks in the seven years of a child's school career would be saved if the metric system were adopted, and a fine training in mental arithmetic would be lost. There was no demand in the country for the change. The House 1340 could not do anything more tyrannical than to compel people to change their habits of life and their system of industry, to throw away their old records and start on a fresh basis, which it would be difficult for them to understand and impossible for them to carry out. Some might intend to vote for the Second Reading in the hope of amending the Bill in Committee. He begged the House to do no such thing. A vital principle of this kind could not be amended. The proposal to grant exemptions would only make confusion worse confounded. He asked the House to reject the Bill, and let it go forth that England intended to stand by her weights and measures which had served so well, antiquated though they might be.
§ *MR. SHACKLETON (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
said that reference had been made to an answer which he gave to a question on this subject. It should be remembered that these things came with a rush at an election when candidates had not time to read every comma in every circular which was sent to them. For years he had in his official position made his calculations of wages and prices on the decimal system, and he would favour a decimal system today; but to ask him to change the standards on which it was based was another thing, and a thing which was impossible so far as the cotton trade was concerned. Indeed, the mover and the seconder had admitted as much, for they had agreed to an exemption of the cotton trade from the Bill. But if there was to be uniformity, it would not be brought about by exemptions of that description. Today he received the following telegram from Glasgow—Metric System Bill; Second Reading to-day. This chamber oppose Bill because, first, public opinion not ripe; second, loss through change too serious for any compensating advantage conferred; third, impracticable in some industries; fourth, measure pressing such changes should be by Government. Healy, secretary, Scottish Chamber Manufacturing Industries.The members of the chamber were gentlemen who had a practical knowledge of trade, and their opinion should be recognised by the House of Commons. The Blackburn Chamber of Commerce, of which he had been a director for the last twelve years, were to a man against 1341 the Bill. That town was mainly connected with the engineering and cotton industries. The Oldham Chamber of Commerce had also asked him to oppose the Bill. A conference of representatives of employers' and operatives' associations in the cotton industry, and of representatives of the textile engineering and mill furnishing trades, was held in London on the 14th inst., and a resolution was passed unanimously and emphatically condemning the Bill. As the branch which he and the other members of the executive represented alone numbered over 200,000 people, he thought they were entitled to some consideration in a matter which vitally affected their trade. The book which he held in his hand had cost, the cotton operatives thousands of pounds during the past fifty years to get to its present state. It contained calculations with regard to wages which were necessary to every mill and workshop in the cotton industry.
§ MR. STRAUS
was understood to say that similar tables could be prepared for use under the metric system.
§ *Mr. SHACKLETON
said that prices must be calculated no matter what the system was. If the hon. Member would introduce a system which would abolish his office as secretary he would thank him for giving him the opportunity of devoting more time to the business of the House. If the Bill came into operation, the book would not be worth the paper on which it was printed. It would become a dead letter. They would have to start afresh, and substitute for the present calculations, which the workpeople understood, a mass of new calculations which, while conferring no advantage, would not be so simple or so easily understood. Everybody in the trade, from the smallest tenter to the head manager of the mill, had been trained to make calculations on the present system, and if the operative were told that the difference in the method of calculation brought about a different result he would say that he had done the same amount of work as before, and he would require his secretary to make it right. He had heard a story in connection with a question of wages which he thought was worth telling. It would be remembered that Australian gold used to 1342 circulate in this country. It was not the same colour as our own. A workman got as part of his pay an Australian half sovereign. He did not like the yellow coin, and, taking it back to the office, he said, "If it's no matter to you, will you give me a Blackburn half sovereign?" The House need not think that operatives could realise all the niceties of the metric system. If the system were introduced, there would have to be an increase of secretaries in every district. There were in some districts 30,000 or 40,000 looms. Every one of the reeds in those looms would have to be scrapped under the new system. Even so small a question as the loss or gain of a hank or thread when they considered a piece of yarn 20,000 yards long meant a considerable item. In his opinion this was too complicated and too serious a matter for the House to entertain in any shape or form. Let them take, as an example, the list he had mentioned which contained so many details. That list was now practically an Act of Parliament, because through the efforts of the workpeople's organisations they had now a rule that if an employer put that list up in his mill it constituted the legal price. Without a strike or without any struggle at all except a mere notification, they could get those prices paid, and he put it to the House that it would be a most serious thing to interefere with what had been settled as a uniform rate, and such a change as that which was suggested was more than he dared face. In reference to the prices mentioned in the list to which he had referred he could not get them on the metric system and, therefore, it would be impossible to apply it in any shape or form. They had in the little book he held in his hand calculations sufficient to cover 1,000 or 2,000 different kinds of cloths, and they worked to a thousandth part of a penny in their prices. He could assure the House that arrangements of that kind had not been brought about in a week. As a matter of fact those calculations had been the labour of years, and to upset them by the adoption of a Bill of the kind under discussion was simply nonsense. The mover of the Bill had said that the cotton trade might be exempted; but how could they then secure uniformity, which was one of the objects claimed for the Bill? It had been stated that Mr. Garnett was in favour of the Bill. 1343 He happened to know Mr. Garnett fairly well, and he felt sure that that gentleman was not anxious to have his 700 or 800 looms upset as well as all his operatives and their work because of this measure. As a matter of fact he did not believe that Mr. Garnett was in favour of the Bill except theoretically. It would be found that many of those who had declared themselves in favour of the metric system, when they came to apply it to their own business would not consent to do so simply for the sake of the theory. People might be willing to accept metrical decimalisation in theory, but when it came to upsetting their own particular business they would strongly object to its adoption. What reason was there for the introduction of such a system in the cotton trade? The cotton trade came next in importance to the agricultural interest, and they could not deal with a huge interest like that on a Friday afternoon upon the Bill of a private Member. If such a thing was to be done at all it certainly was a matter for the Government to take up. It would be a very serious matter indeed for the Government to deal with, let alone a private Member. In the year 1906 Lancashire sent 6,261,000,000 yards of cloth abroad in the shape of cotton goods, representing a value of something like £75,000,000. That was only about four fifths of their production, because one fifth of it was used at home. The great bulk of the Lancashire trade in cotton goods was with India, China, and Japan. He would like to consider for a moment the case of India. Lancashire exports to India were 99½ per cent. of their total imports of cotton goods. The Oriental was always doubtful and suspicious of any change. Our Indian subjects had got used to buying their clothes according to their present lengths and prices; to alter them would be the very worst thing we could do. The Hindoo for a good many years had bought Lancashire goods by the yard and understood certain textures by the marks now adopted, and if by this system they upset all that they would be sure to damage the trade of Lancashire to a considerable extent. Who was Lancashire's most serious competitor in cotton goods? It was America, and that country adopted the yard measure. If Lancashire was compelled to adopt the metric system, what a 1344 splendid opportunity it would be for Lancashire's competitors to send in their cloth on the yard measure at the same time that Lancashire goods were being exported under the metric system. He thought the House would have too much common sense to do anything of that kind. They should remember that in this matter in India and China they were not dealing with trained educated business men, but with millions of people who had no education at all, who had grown up under the present system and custom, and to interfere with it now would be a very serious matter. The position which had been taken up on this Bill by the House of Lords was very significant, for they had blessed the measure provided it did not apply to their own particular interest, namely, land. He thought that attitude would be typical of many more interests when they had gone more closely into the subject. Had the promoters of the Bill ever realised what it meant to the humble purchaser? Up to the present they had only considered how it would affect the manufacturer and retail seller. What about the small retail buyer? It had been said that the stone in one place was 14 lb., while in the next parish it might be 15 lb., or even 16 lb. But that could be remedied by the President of the Board of Trade issuing an order stating what should be the standard. It was unreasonable to expect that every man, woman, and child in the country who had been brought up in the existing system would have learnt the equivalent for an ounce and a pound and a stone in five years time. If the Government were going to hold an inquiry, it should be dune not by professors, but by practical men engaged in the engineering, cotton, woollen, silk, and other industries. The mover of the Bill had quoted the names of firms employing 500 men in favour of the Bill, but he had paid nothing about a firm like Platt Bros, who employed 10,000 men and were dead against the metric system. "What was the good of quoting, say, thirty-seven countries in favour of the Bill when three other countries, containing a population greater than all the thirty-seven countries put together might be quoted against it? Before the House came to a decision the whole question ought to be thoroughly gone into, and then the various phases of the subject might be carefully examined. He would advise 1345 the supporters of the Bill not to press it forward at that stage. If it was pressed to a division he believed they would be able to defeat the measure. He did not say that he was against any improvement in the present system, but he did say that they would not be acting in the best interests of the nation or in the interests of international trade if they made this tremendous change. He had much pleasure in seconding the Amendment.
To leave out the word 'now' and at the end of the question to add the words 'upon this day six months.' "—(Mr. Haworth.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ SIR EDWARD SASSOON (Hythe)
said the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the rejection of the Bill constituted the most convincing argument to any reform that it had been his fortune to listen to. It was a fortunate thing they were not active politicians in the forties—for they would have shown to Mr. Gobden, in harrowing tones, how fatal and disastrous to the economic and social life of the nation his free trade propaganda was likely to be. The hon. Gentleman opposite had given the House several reasons for throwing out the Bill. Let him take two or three. The hon. Gentleman said that it was possible that the decimal point might be put in the wrong place. That would seem to show that the person was negligent who was keeping the accounts rather than that the principle of the Bill was faulty. And if loss accrued, they would say what George Stephenson said, when asked what would happen to a cow which strayed on the railway line: "So much the worse for the coo." The hon. Member then asked whether we should wage war against the existing order of weights and measures. He would have not the slightest compunction about waging war against a system barbarous, primitive, and cumbersome to a degree. Inconvenience at the outset there would be—he was not concerned to deny it. Was there ever any reform indicated which did not entail some sort of disturbance, temporary in its character but yet inconvenient while it lasted? The hon. Member for Clitheroe 1346 spoke with unrivalled knowledge of the views and feeling of the textile operatives. He believed the hon. Member exaggerated the difficulties likely to be caused and surmounted, but was he not a little inconsiderate, seeing that Clause 3, Section (c) clearly gave His Majesty, by Order in Council, the power to exempt any calling or industry which so desired? So far as he was aware, and certainly so far as the main line of cleavage developed by the debate had revealed them, the objections urged against the Bill were to a great extent sentimental. He would deal very briefly with the history of this proposal. During the session of 1895 a Select Committee of the House of Commons was appointed to inquire whether any, and if so what, changes in the present system of weights and measures should be adopted. The Committee practically confined their attention to the consideration of the metric system, and they agreed to these three recommendations: (1) That the metric system of weights and measures be at once legalised for all purposes; (2) that after a lapse of two years the system be rendered compulsory by Act of Parliament; (3) that the system be taught in all public elementary schools as a necessary and integral part of arithmetic. The Bill which was passed in 1897 carried out the first of the recommendations, and the evidence taken by the Select Committee clearly proved that there was a genuine demand among some of the large trades in some of the important commercial centres in the country. The question for the House to consider now was whether there had been any advance of public opinion towards the adoption of the metric system. The Leader of the Opposition refused to give the authority the power to make the change in November, 1895, on the ground that public opinion was not ripe for it, and in March, 1899, the late Mr. Ritchie gave the same reply to a deputation. Our Colonies, however, had not moved so slowly on the path of progress. It was abundantly clear that they appreciated the advantages which would accrue to them and to the Empire generally if they were to inaugurate a system which would facilitate all commercial dealings with countries outside the British Empire. The Congress of Chambers of Commerce of the British Empire passed resolutions in favour of the 1347 metric system in London in 1900 and at Montreal in 1903. A similar resolution was passed by the Colonial Conference of 1902, by the Cape of Good Hope House of Assembly and the Transvaal Chamber of Mines; while the New Zealand Legislature, by an Act passed in 1903, enabled the Governor to establish the metric system in that Colony on 1st January, 1906. The Colonies would seem to declare unanimously in favour of the metric system, not merely because it would benefit them individually, but because it would simplify commercial intercourse between the various parts of the Empire, and tend to stimulate the expansion of foreign trade, by assimilating our standards to simple and scientific standards in vogue except in Russia. He had yet to learn that the Mother Country could always afford to turn a deaf ear to the appeals which came to her from her Colonies. A glance at our system of weights and measures was sufficient to show that it was hopelessly illogical and complex. There was no proper relation between lineal measurements and measurements of capacity. A cubic inch meant nothing; it was not adopted as a standard of liquid or solid measurement. We used a pint which was 34.66 cubic inches. But it was when one came to consider our system of weights that its inherent absurdity became apparent. The troy pound consisted of twelve ounces; the pound avoirdupois contained sixteen ounces; and even the troy and avoirdupois ounces were different weights. If these things were often a source of confusion to educated persons, what were they to children, who wasted so much time at school in trying to learn them, and to the uneducated; and more important still, what meaning did our weights and measures convey to the foreigners with whom we had such important commercial relations? He would ask what was the meaning of the term "stone" as a measure of weight? A stone of sugar meant 14 lbs.; a stone of dead meat 8 lbs.; while a stone of glass weighed 5 lb. A bushel of corn in Sunderland weighed 46 lbs.; in Shropshire 72–75 lbs.; and in Newton, 80 lbs. An Act which would at one step remove all these anomalies, which served no purpose but to assist unjust and unfair dealing, would be of material assistance in establishing uniformity throughout the country. The 1348 next matter which he would ask the House to consider was the large amount of educational time at present devoted to teaching children a complex system of weights and measures. Inquiries were recently made of 197 headmasters in elementary schools in order to ascertain how much of the scholars' time was occupied in these profitless learnings. 161 headmasters said one year, thirty said two, and six said three years! And what was the result? They all know that the child was wearied and disheartened by the acquirement of the knowledge, and it was more than probable that the well-known decline in the taste for mathematics was partly due to that cause. If the children could only be released from the onerous task of learning all these weights and measures, and be allowed to learn the metric system, their time could be more profitably spent in other pursuits; and he might mention that the importance of the question was fully recognised by the National Union of Teachers, who had passed strong resolutions in favour of the metric system. He need not pause to describe the metric system at length. It was sufficiently well-known to Members of the House. What he regarded as its chief advantage was the co-relation between lineal measurement, weight and volume. Thus one cubic centimetre of water weighed one gram. One thousand cubic centimetres or one litre of water weighed one thousand grams or one kilo. Hence one cubic metre of water contained 1,000 litres, and weighed 1,000 kilos, or a metric ton. The system was simplicity itself; and even if its adoption might involve some expense to those who were at the present time provided with old-fashioned weights and measures he contended that the advantages which would accrue must soon repay any small loss. What was the position of the British manufacturer who made goods for metric countries as well as his own? He must work to one system for the home trade and to another for his foreign trade. That means increased trouble and expense from which our keen foreign competitors—such as Germany—were entirely free. If they were to adopt the metric system, backed up as they were by our Colonies, he was convinced that many other countries, like the United States and Russia, would be compelled to follow suit. 1349 In the result there would be an international system of weights and measures to the great advantage of all concerned. The different sections and fractions into which the principal religious communions in the world were split up constituted sufficient stumbling blocks, gave rise to sufficient sources of strife and conflict in the moral sphere, to induce the House to try at least to eliminate all avoidable complexities and embarrassments from the domain of commercial and practical activities. One could not help describing it as such—our anachronistic method of computation and measurement, which really belonged to mediaeval times, so sterilising to our intercourse with the foreigner, so harassing to our own people across the seas, cried out for reform. It was high time Parliament assisted the enterprise sought to be achieved by the moderate measure now before the House, for the purpose of establishing a system which reason, science, and mathematical symmetry alike concurred in indicating as by far the simplest and best.
§ SIR GEORGE SCOTT ROBERTSON (Bradford, Central)
said he had listened with great pleasure to the speeches made by the mover and seconder of the rejection of the Bill, and almost everything that could have been said in support of that Motion had been said. The hon. Baronet who had just sat down had spoken of the metric system that had been introduced into Germany and the facility with which it had been arranged. Seventy years ago, when it was introduced, there were forty different sets of weights and measures in Germany. What was the position there now, after the system had been in force nearly forty years? They altered their system at a time when industrial development was very low, and if they had to do now the difficulty of introducing a metric system would be enormously great, and even now the old measures in Germany were in constant use. In fact, it was remarkable how in countries all over the world where the metric system was supposed to prevail the same thing happened. In America they had the old French measures in constant use, and the old Spanish measures in Mexico. Mexico, which was supposed to have been a pure metric country for the last twenty-five years, had every 1350 possible system, English, French, Sterling and the United States silver money used for payment Troy weight, when paying in gold they used another weight. Philadelphia once made a mistake in measuring 100 feet by making it 3 inches more than it should have been, and to this day they had a measure in Philadelphia of 100 feet 3 inches because it had always been so. In France it was the same; the Minister whose duty it was to see to this matter admitted that he had no means at his disposal to prevent the people from using the old measures, and all he could do was to appeal to everybody to assist him in persuading the people to abandon the old system. That showed conclusively that it was not possible to have a compulsory system of metric measures. He believed that the French metric system was not suited to our requirements. Of course, several suggestions had been made, as for instance that an inch or a foot metric system would be better than the French one. It was quite possible, but the discussions showed that there must always be a vast difference between the manufacturers and the scientific men. They were trying to reconcile two irreconcilable things. The result would be that we should have the binary system for manufacturers and the metric system for scientific men, accountants, and so on. It stood to reason it must be so Children and savages divided into halves and quarters; it was a perfectly simple thing to do. They were sometimes told that calculation by fives was simple because there were five fingers on each hand and five toes on each foot, but that was not what happened in savage countries. He supposed that no Member of the House had lived so much among savage peoples as himself, and what he had always noticed was that when they put up their hands and their feet it did not count for twenty, but for one for each hand and one for each foot. Let them remember what was said with regard to the English pint. It was once said by a President of the Board of Trade that the strongest Government in this country could not change the measure of the pint. The arguments had been extremely well put on both sides, but what he thought was wanted was a long and carefully conducted investigation by a Commission into all the aspects of the case. It so happened that our methods were the 1351 methods of the United States and all the English speaking countries, and the advent of the conference of the Colonial Premiers would, he thought, give a unique opportunity of having a Commission of all the English speaking peoples, because we could have all our Colonies, some Americans, and our own people as well. Most important of all would it be to have not too large a proportion of scientific men on such a Commission. Scientific men did not understand manufacturing. It was the one thing they could not understand, while their prestige and fame in the scientific world often gave their opinions on these Commissions a weight which they did not deserve. The scientific man wanted to deal with as many fractions as possible, the manufacturer with as few. He wanted to work to a quarter or an eighth. Another point which was very important was that if all these exceptions were made—the measurement of land which the House of Lords Committee excepted, the textile and engraving trades which were excepted by the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, coinage and navigation which were excepted by Lord Kelvin, the measurement of time, which was excepted by the whole world—there would be nothing left. A good deal had been said about the suffering a child had to undergo in learning unnecessary tables; but a child had to develop its memory, and in that way its memory was developed. He felt sure that the House would agree with him in thinking that even if a metric system were desirable in this country, the French metric system was not suited to our requirements. Moreover, we could not have a compulsory system; there would have to be a British compromise—for manufacturers the binary system and for scientists the decimal system. He hoped the House would not give its sanction to the principle of a metric system by allowing a Second Reading to be given to this Bill. He could not understand the argument that by passing the Second Reading the whole question would be in a better position to be placed before the Colonial Premiers. If, as he thought, it was an excellent idea that the matter should go before them, it was much better that it should go before them without any sort of certificate from this House. It was true that he had signed a document approving of the institution 1352 of the metric system. When the matter was laid before him he examined it very carefully, and having come to the conclusion that there was a great deal to be said in its favour he, with the usual mental reservations of course, put his name to it. Having heard further evidence he, honestly following his conviction, had withdrawn his support from the proposal. The cost of such a change of system would be enormous. In the United States Congress Mr. Leiter two years ago introduced a compulsory measure of a similar kind, and he estimated that one and a half million dollars would be required to effect the change. Some said 500,000,000 and some that 1,000,000,000 dollars would be required; he naturally estimated the cost as low as he could, but other estimates went very much higher. In this country all sorts of estimates had been made, and in one Birmingham firm alone the estimated cost of the change in the works was £50,000. Whether that was an exaggerated estimate or not there was clearly necessity for very careful investigation before the Bill was read a second time.
§ MR. KELLEY (Manchester, S.W.)
thought that a great many of the statements made by the hon. Gentlemen who moved and seconded the Motion for the rejection of the Bill would be found to have no value when they came to be examined. He would not notice the reference of the hon. Member the Manchester alderman who said that if all who voted on the occasion in question had known the real meaning of the resolution they would not have voted for it upon any consideration, except to say, that it was putting at a very low ebb the intelligence of the worthy alderman. If he had not looked into the matter he ought to have done so. The Bill, as he read it, only referred to buying and selling, not to manufacturing. It had been said that the working classes would require among time to understand the change; but as a fact they had been teaching themselves these things for years, at their own expense. They had teachers in all districts, and they had signed petitions in favour of the change with full knowledge of what they were doing, and not with the knowledge derived from the worthy Manchester alderman. He declined to agree with what had been 1353 said by the hon. Member for Clitheroe. Nevertheless he thought the difficulties the hon. Member alluded to might be very well got over. He believed that a mistake had been made with regard to the engineering trade in particular, In that trade the opinion of Sir W. Mather was entitled to respect, and that gentleman had expressed himself strongly in favour of the metric system, and had adopted it in his works. In view of the opinions expressed during the debate it would be unwise to push the Motion for Second Reading to a division, but taking advantage of the presence of the Colonial Premiers in this country it would be well to have an inquiry, which they should be invited to attend. As the Americans were about to adopt the metric system it might be a means of causing the matter to be taken up in the United States and might lead in the desired direction.
§ *MR. BARRAN (Leeds, N.)
said the Bill had been defended upon the two grounds that it had simplicity and would be a source of great advantage to trade. With regard to its simplicity, it would be noticed that it left out of all consideration a decimal system for money. He could quite understand why the introducers of the Bill had left out the monetary question, because they had there to face either an entirely new system of money or the very serious question of reconstituting our monetary system on the basis of the present sovereign. He would not go into the question except in its bearing on the system of weights and measures. If they touched the coinage and adopted a decimal principle they would have to start with the florin. The florin was twenty-four pence, forty-eight halfpennies, or ninety-six farthings. It would be seen that that was 4 per cent. short of the decimal system. Consequently if the florin were adopted as the decimal coin, every article sold for a penny or for a few pennies would be sold at 4 per cent. less than at the present time. Therefore, the promoters of the Bill had done wisely to leave the monetary question out of consideration. The question had to be dealt with as it affected foreign trade. In America and the Colonies there was a decimal system of money, but the inch 1354 and the yard and our own system of weights and measures. Was it to be suggested for a moment that we should retain our fractional system in money, thus retaining the difference between ourselves and the United States and our Colonies, and that we should adopt a decimal and metric system in weights and measures which would put us out of harmony with those countries; that was, that we should adhere to the monetary system where we at present differed, and alter the measure system where we at present agreed. The House was told that it would benefit our trade, but he thought so far as the facilitating of international trade was concerned the Bill was worked on wrong lines. He was in favour of a wide extension of both the metric and the decimal systems, and was ready to join in a thorough revision of English weights and measures; but he pointed out some anomalies that would arise from the compulsory adoption of metric weights and measures. Goods going abroad were to be exempted, but that did not get rid of the greatest difficulty. All traders must regulate their weights and measures according to those of the country to which they were selling their goods. Did they, suppose for one moment that the textile or engineering trade were to be compelled to adhere to the present system in respect to the goods they sent abroad and adopt the metric system at home. Textile goods to the extent of £75,000,000 went abroad from Manchester, manufacturers would obviously adhere to that system of measurement, and yet, according to this Bill, they were to be told that the articles they sold to the English consumer must be sold on a different basis. That was where the absurdity of the compulsion came in. At the present time, if an engineer were selling to a foreign country, he sold, if the consumer wished it, according to the metric system. A great many people in the textile trade in his district adopted that position, as did also many engineers, as they had heard to-day, and he wished to protest most strongly against the assumption that it had never dawned upon either the engineers or textile manufacturers of the country to send their quotations to foreign countries in the metric system. Wherever required, the quotations were made on that 1355 system. If we were going to make any alterations which were really to the advantage of our commerce with other countries had we not better take the step along with them? If the bulk of those countries were not willing to adopt the alterations, let us retain our measurements as long as they did. In the home trade we were to be compelled not only to buy on a different basis from that on which foreigners bought, but we were to be prohibited from continuity in our purchases. If the Bill became law, a firm which wished to put down more machinery would be compelled to give their order under the metric system. It was well known that it was impossible to convert from an inch to a metre, and yet the Bill said that in future if shafting or machinery was to be put down it must be done by the metre instead of by the inch. The House should throw out this Bill of a compulsory character, and concentrate its attention upon rectifying a few of the greatest anomalies in the country, instead of endeavouring to make compulsory a system which would interfere with our greatest industries and do a great injury to the home as well as the foreign trade of the country.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. Lloyd-GeoRge, Carnarvon Boroughs)
I think all who have listened to the debate will acknowledge that it has been conducted with singular ability on both sides. The case for the Bill was put by the mover and seconder in able and powerful speeches, and I think the same applies to the mover and seconder of the Amendment. The arguments have been placed very clearly before the House. I think it is common ground in this controversy that we should have unification, if it is possible to obtain it, on some simple and scientific principle. But the real difference of opinion is how best to obtain it, and whether public opinion is sufficiently advanced to justify the House of Commons in imposing a system of this character on what is, at any rate, a large 1356 and powerful minority. I am not sure either that there is perfect agreement that the metric system would be the best reform, even if we are agreed that a reform is desirable; but we need not enter into that now, because the proposition of the Bill is one of a character which you can examine without going into the more complex problem which is at the root of the question. It is acknowledged that the change would cost money. Even a change of weights and measures alone would cost the retail traders of this country about two millions, and the cost to the engineering and textile trades would, of course, be greater still. Yet I agree that if the thing to be done were of sufficient importance, and would promote the industry and commerce of the country, it would be worth while sinking a considerable capital expenditure. But would it? Let us first deal with our foreign trade. My hon. friend who has just sat down has pointed out that the greater proportion of our foreign trade is with non-metric countries, and if we change our system to the metric system without arrangeing a similar change in our Colonies, and without inducing the United States and the East to come into a general arrangement, we should deprive ourselves of an advantage which we have at the present moment over our metric competitors. I know it is said that we lose trade in the metric countries at the present moment, because we do not sell on a metric basis. I do not agree. When we get a sufficiently large order it is no great trouble or expense for a clerk to convert the quotation into metric figures. But assuming our system is a slight handicap in metric countries, it has to be remembered that the conversion of our system to the metric system would remove a handicap from our metric competitors in our home and Colonial markets. [Cries of "Free Trade."] I am merely answering an argument of an hon. Member who put the contrary case. It is no argument of mine at all. The bulk of our customers at the present 1357 moment are non-metric countries, and within the last few years we have increased our trade with those countries in much larger proportion than with metric countries. Myhon. friend has said that the reason we do not change our system is because of apathy. If, however, we are doing pretty well in these trades at the present moment, there is apprehension of any change which might be for the worse. Take the textile trade. We have the greatest export textile trade in the world, and that is all based on the present system. We are selling cotton goods in the East to a population which would not comprehend the change, and that population being naturally very suspicious, our trade might be very considerably impaired in that quarter. That would be a very dangerous experiment, and I hope it will not be embarked upon. Quotations have been made from consular reports, in which complaint is made that our manufacturers in dealing with metric countries fail to quote in metric figures. In reference to a particular report of this kind from Germany, in which it was said manufacturers here were losing business because they would not quote metric figures, I made some inquiries in Manchester of the then Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Thomson, and this gentleman said that the real reason was that the orders they got from that particular district were not worth attending to. They would require the manufacturers to have a special kind of cloth manufactured in such small quantities that it would not be worth while; and this gentleman added that if they had had orders for cloth manufactured on a large scale in the mills of Lancashire they would have sent quotations in metric figures without any difficulty at all. I thought that was a very good answer. Let us take the home trade. Supposing you had a compulsory measure for that trade, could you really enforce it? The metric system has broken down hopelessly in France. It is rather significant that after 100 years of compulsory 1358 metric measurement the Minister of Commerce in France has been obliged to appeal to traders to assist him in carrying out the law, not by means of compulsion, but by means of inducing traders to use the legal standard. That is exactly the suggestion made by an hon. Member who said, "Do not bring in your law first, and after 100 years appeal to the Chamber of Commerce." You must first of all get industrial opinion to agree to the change, and you cannot possibly carry it through while you have nearly 40 or 50 per cent. of the manufacturers of the country not merely unconvinced as to the desirability of the change, but convinced that the change will do them harm. Anomalous measures will exist to the end of time. One hundred will be a decimal figure but 100 eggs are 120. Then there is the baker's dozen. The hon. Baronet has asked what is a pint? Let the hon. Baronet ask an agricultural labourer, and he will soon get a reply. But let him go to an agricultural labourer and ask him if he would like .56825 of a litre of beer and see what reply he will get then. These measures will never be altered. They are rooted in custom and habit, and no matter what laws the House passes it will be impossible to get rid of them. The change has failed in France, and it always will fail. Those who are responsible for the Bill should take the suggestion of the hon. Member for Clitheroe into account. I am with the promoters of the Bill if it is possible to introduce it without doing great injury to our trade; but before passing a Bill you must first get all these powerful interests in the country ready to accept the change and to make preparation for it. The hon. Member for Clithoroe has suggested that the traders should appoint a committee of their own. It is not a question for a Royal Commission. It is a question of bringing the manufacturers and traders of the country to a common understanding, and that can be done only by means of such a committee. Then, if they came to such 1359 an understanding, it would be time to come to Parliament to have legalised the standard on which they agreed. Until they do that Parliament will be acting very unwisely if it enforces a measure of this kind upon the trade of the country when it is quite unripe for it.
§ *MR. LUPTON (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
said he had heartily enjoyed the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. It would be, said the right hon. Gentleman, a wise thing that Chambers of Commerce should agree upon a system before it was passed into law. When all the Chambers of Commerce and all the manufacturers and others were agreed it would be quite unnecessary to pass a law on the subject. If the non metric system had been the law, it would have been illegal to use the metric system, as some manufacturers were doing at present. Why should they stereotype any system in this country? If anybody wanted the metric system he could adopt it. A friend of his, one of the cleverest engineers of the day, had said it would be retrograde to adopt the metric system, and not to the advantage of the engineering trade. The opinions put forward in its favour had been chiefly those on behalf of elementary schoolmasters and children attending elementary schools, who were a most important class, but who did not represent the commerce and manufactures of the nation. If people
§ wanted to do their calculations quickly all that they had to do was to use some calculating machine. All calculations of time, all geometric, algebraic and trigonometrical calculations were independent of the metric system. At the present moment there was more uniformity in the use of English measures than in the use of any other measures in the world. English measures were in use all over the Empire and in the United States, India, and China. To bring in the metric system would be to destroy the most wonderful system we had got. We had measuring machines for a one-millionth part of an inch. It would be a distinct going backwards to pass any law on the subject. Many people had a notion that the metric system was a fine thing, and so it was, but it had come into partial use in this country voluntarily. If the metric system were now made compulsory, it would put a stop to invention, and a still better system, which might yet be invented would be stifled by law. He appealed to the House not to be led away by the advocacy of one particular kind of measurement or another, and not to restrict people in the free use of any system.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided;—Ayes, 118; Noes, 150. (Division List No. 90.)1361
|Abraham, William (Cork, N.E.)||Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Corbett, A. Cameron(Glasgow)|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch)||Bignold, Sir Arthur||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.|
|Ambrose, Robert||Billson, Alfred||Cowan, W. H.|
|Armstrong, W. C Heaton||Boland, John||Crean, Eugene|
|Arnold-Forster, Rt. Hn. Hugh O.||Bowerman, C W.||Cross, Alexander|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Bryce, J. Annan||Davies, W. Howell (Bristol, S.)|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Burke, E. Haviland-||Dillon, John|
|Barnard, E. B.||Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Duncan, Robert (Lanark, Govan|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Butcher, Samuel Henry||Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)|
|Bellairs, Carlycn||Clancy, John Joseph||Esmonde, Sir Thomas|
|Bethell, Sir J.H (Essex, Romford||Clough, William||Ferens, T. R.|
|Ffreneh, Peter||Macdonald, J. M.(Falkirk B' ghs||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Gibb, James (Harrow)||MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.)||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Ginnell, L.||M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Gooch, George Peabody||M'Laren, Sir C B. (Leicester)||Ridsdale, E. A.|
|Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill||Magnus, Sir Philip||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Gulland, John W.||Manfield, Harry (Northants)||Robinson, S.|
|Halpin, J.||Masterman, C. F. G.||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worc'r)||Meehan, Patrick A.||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Mond, A.||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Hazel, Dr. A. E.||Montagu, E. S.||Seaverns, J. H.|
|Healy, Timothy Michael||Mooney, J. J.||Shaw, Charles Edw. (Srafford)|
|Hedges, A. Paget||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Herbert, Colonel Ivor (Mon., S.)||Murphy, John||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Hervey, F. W. F.(BuryS. Edm'ds||Nolan, Joseph||Thomson, W. Mitchell-(Lanark)|
|Higham, John Sharp||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Tuke, Sir John Bitty|
|Hobart, Sir Robert||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Mid||Vincent, Col, Sir C. E. Howard|
|Hogan, Michael||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Vivian, Henry|
|Holland, Sir William Henry||O' Connor, James(Wicklow, W.)||Waring, Walter|
|Hunt, Rowland||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Idris, T. H. W.||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Jenkins, J.||O'Dowd, John||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea||O'Grady, J.||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Jones, Leif (Appleby)||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Kekewich, Sir George||Palmer, Sir Charles Mark||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Kelley, George D,||Pearce, Williams (Limehouse)|
|King, Sir Henry Seymour(Hull)||Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Lamont, Norman||Price, C. E. (Edinb' gh, Central)||Mr.B. S. Straus and Sir Henry Norman.|
|Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Radford, G. H.|
|Lundon, W.||Randles, Sir John Scurrah|
|Acland, rancis Dyke||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Isaacs, Rufus Daniel|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Collins, Sir Wm. J.(S. Pancras, W||Jacoby, Sir James Alfred|
|Agnew, George William||Corbett,C.H.(Sussex, E. Grinst'd||Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Joyce, Michael|
|Ashley, W. W.||Cory, Clifford John||Kearley, Hudson E.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert Henry||Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Kenyon-Slaney, Rt. Hon Col. W.|
|Astbury, John Meir||Craig, Herbert J.(Tynemouth)||Keswick, William|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Dalrymple, Viscount||Kincaid-Smith, Captain|
|Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hon. Sir H.||Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh||Laidlaw, Robert|
|Baker, Joseph A.(Finsbury, E.)||Dickinson, W. H.(St. Pancras, N.||Lamb, Ernest H. (Rochester)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm.|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Lea, Hugh Cecil (St.Pancras, E.|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Duckworth, James||Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Dunne, Major E.Martin (Walsall||Levy, Maurice|
|Barran, Rowland Hiss||Everett, R. Lacey||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Beauchamp, E.||Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Liddell, Henry|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Fletcher, J. S.||Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David|
|Benn, W. (T 'w'r Hamlets, S. Geo.||Forster, Henry William||Long, Col. Charles W(Evesham)|
|Bennett, E. N.||Fullerton, Hugh||Lonsdale, John Brownlee|
|Bottomley, Horatio||Gardner, Ernest (Berks, East)||Lough, Thomas|
|Bowles, G. Stewart||Gill, A. H.||Lupton, Arnold|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Greenwood, Hamar (York)||M'Callum, John M.|
|Branch, James||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis||Maddison, Frederick|
|Bright, J. A.||Hardy, George A. (Suffolk)||Marks, G Croydon(Launceston)|
|Brocklehurst, W. G.||Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford||Menzies, Walter|
|Burnyeat, W. J. D.||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Molteno, Percy Alport|
|Byles, William Pollard||Harwood, George||Myer, Horatio|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncast'r|
|Cecil, Lord R.(Marylebone, E.)||Helmsley, Viscount||Nuttall, Harry|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Worc||Henry, Charles S.||O'Kelly, James(Roscommon, N.|
|Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Herbert, T. Arnold (Wycombe)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Cheetham, John Frederick||Hodge, John||Paul, Herbert|
|Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Holden, E. Hopkinson||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Clarke, C. Goddard||Hornby, Sir William Henry||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Cleland, J. W.||Horidge, Thomas Gardner||Price, Robert John(Norfolk, E.)|
|Coats, Sir T.Glen(Renfrew, W.)||Hudson, Walter||Priestley,W. E. B.(Bradford, E.)|
|Rees, J. D.||Spicer, Sir Albert||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Richards, T. F. (Wolverh'mpt'n||Stanley, Hn. A. Lyulph(Chesh.)||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)|
|Rickett, J. Compton||Starkey, John R.||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)|
|Robertson, Sir G.Scott(Bradf'rd||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)||White, Luke (York, E.R.)|
|Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Rowlands, J.||Tennant, Sir Edward (Salisbury||Wiles, Thomas|
|Runciman, Walter||Thomasson, Franklin||Wilson, A Stanley(York, E. R.)|
|Sandys, Lieut.-Col. Thos. Myles||Tomkinson, James||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)|
|Sears, J. E.||Torrance, Sir A. M.||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)|
|Sheffield, Sir Berkeley George D||Toulmin' George||Wilton, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Shipman, Dr. John G.||Verney, F. W.||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Sloan, Thomas Henry||Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)||Tellers for the Noes—|
|Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie||Walton, Sir John L. (Leeds, S.)||Mr. Haworth and Mr. Shackleton|
|Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)||Wardle, George J.|
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to. Second Reading put off for six months.