HC Deb 11 October 1976 vol 917 cc23-4
23. Mr. Goodhart

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection whether he will make a statement about the Government's metrication policy.

Mr. John Fraser

I made clear to the House in reply to Questions from the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) and my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) on 27th May that, following widespread consultations, the Government intended to seek powers to secure the orderly completion of the metrication programme. The Weights and Measures, &c. (No. 2) Bill now before the House seeks these powers and the Government will be fully setting out their views during the Second Reading debate, which I hope will be taking place shortly.

The Government's policy is also set out in the reply of 4th August to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans).

Mr. Goodhart

Will the Minister give an assurance that the general public will be consulted through the Government's social survey before setting any cut-off dates for imperial measurements?

Mr. Fraser

I have been most anxious to ensure that there is maximum consultation with consumer organisations, not least with the most vulnerable members of the community, and that consultations take place before any Order is put before the House for its approval.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Will my hon. Friend reiterate that it will be the Government's policy to protect the consumer when metrication is introduced and to ensure that we do not have a repetition of what happened when decimalisation was introduced, which was against the interests of the consumer?

Mr. Fraser

I can give that assurance. I am grateful for the comments and discussions that I have had with Members of Parliament and outside bodies. I shall try to build into any change of programme the maximum degree of consumer protection and to link metrication measures to measures of consumer protection—for instance, prescribed quantities.

Mr. Marten

Am I right in assuming that the Government have no intention of moving to kilometres and all the road-sign costs that would be involved?

Mr. Fraser

The completion of the metrication programme will eventually mean changing to kilometres, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that that is not by any means a priority.