HC Deb 11 October 1976 vol 917 cc17-9
15. Mr. Moate

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what has been the total cost to date of the Metrication Board.

Mr. John Fraser

Approximately £4½ million since the board was established in 1969.

Mr. Moate

Will the Government now take a close look at the Metrication Board to see whether it can be pruned or, preferably, axed altogether? Would it not be best now to end the obsessive dogmatic attachment to total metrication and instead to operate both systems of measurement?

Mr. Fraser

It would be a great disservice, particuarly to many millions of children who have been educated in the metric system, if we were to maintain a dual system of measurement. The best way is to proceed with our Weights and Measures, &c. (No. 2) Bill and adequately to consult consumers, linking this with consumer protection, eventually having one unconfusing system.

Sir John Hall

Following the experience gained from the partial conversion to metrication, may I ask whether the Government are now in a position to give an estimate of the total cost to the country of converting to metrication?

Mr. Fraser

I cannot give an accurate figure, but the cost is not as high as some have made out. It is possibly no greater than the cost of not completing the metrication programme.

Mrs. Bain

Can the Minister say whether he has persuaded his own Back Benchers that it is right to allow us to debate this question, so that we may end the uncertainty not only in education but among business men and manufacturers of products who are uncertain about what they should do?

Mr. Fraser

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her comments. I hope that we shall have the chance to debate these matters next week.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts

Apart from the demands coming from schoolchildren about metrication, can my hon. Friend tell the House what other quarters are making such representations to him? Is he aware that I have made inquiries in industry recently and have found that there is little demand for a move in this direction?

Mr. Fraser

The Weights and Measures, &c. (No. 2) Bill, which has now passed all its stages in the House of Lords, has the support of many responsible consumer organisations in the country, including the National Consumer Council.