HC Deb 07 December 1965 vol 722 cc216-7
9. Mr. Harold Walker

asked the Minister of Technology what recommendations he is making to industry to bring about the standardisation of screw threads.

Mr. Cousins

I am giving full support to the statement issued on 23rd November by the British Standards Institution urging industry to use the metric screw thread system agreed by the International Standards Organisation, and gradually to replace the purely British systems that are not recognised by many of our overseas customers. I do not consider that any further general recommendations to industry are needed at this stage, but, with permission, I will circulate a more detailed statement of the present position in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Walker

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in 1949, the International Organisation for Standardisation, to which Britain was a party, recommended the unified inch system, in which industry invested vast sums of capital? What effect will this decision have on our trading relations with North America, which decided to stick to the British system?

Mr. Cousins

I am aware of the decision in 1949, and of that taken in 1964 as a result of more than 10 years' study. We took the decision to change over because, on balance, it means that we shall be able to sell more in the countries where we normally do our trading. It is true that America is staying with the unified thread, but there is a strong feeling in British industry that we should convert.

Following is the information: As announced by the President of the Board of Trade in the Answer he gave to the hon. Member for Oldsbury and Halesowen on 24th May, 1965, the Government consider it desirable that British industries on a broadening front should adopt metric units, sector by sector. The International Organisation for Standardisation (I.S.O.) has reached agreement on recommendations for general purpose screw threads, comprising a system of I.S.O. metric threads and another system of I.S.O. inch threads, the latter being the same as the existing Unified threads. These two systems have been published as British Standards, namely B.S. 3643—I.S.O. Metric Screw Threads and B.S. 1580 Unified Screw Threads. There are three general purpose screw thread systems used in this country today, namely Whitworth, B.S.F., and B.A.; these three systems are little used abroad. To perpetuate their use and maintain unnecessary variety must increase our costs and hamper our export trade. The British Standards Institution has recently issued an important policy statement urging British industry to adopt the I.S.O. metric system wherever possible in future designs. The statement has received strong support from industry. The decision to recommend the use of metric screw threads has my full support although, with the B.S.I., I recognise that certain sectors of industry which now use the I.S.O. inch (Unified) system may find it necessary to continue to do so for some time. The implication of the B.S.I. statement is that Whitworth, B.S.F. and B.A. threads are now to be regarded as obsolescent, although their replacement will be a gradual process. Supplies of screws and tools to the obsolescent Standards will have to be maintained for many years for servicing existing designs and equipment already installed. I also support the B.S.I. view that these systems should be superseded by I.S.O. metric threads in preference to an intermediate change to I.S.O. inch threads. Over 80 per cent. of the world's population is in countries which have adopted, or are adopting, the metric system. The rate of expansion of our trade with metric countries is greater than with non-metric countries.