HC Deb 01 February 1978 vol 943 cc450-2
17. Mr. Neubert

asked the Secretary of State for Transport with whom he intends to consult regarding his planned changeover from miles to kilometres.

31. Mr. Moate

asked the Secretary of State for Transport with whom he intends to consult regarding his planned changeover from miles to kilometres.

Mr. William Rodgers

A wide range of representative organisations, but not yet.

Mr. Neubert

Will the Secretary of State ensure that in any consultations that he undertakes on this subject he gives the greatest emphasis to the general public, and not only to the technical interests involved? Does he appreciate that most people would regard an avoidable change from miles to kilometres as senseless, extremely wasteful, and unlikely to improve the popular appeal of the Common Market?

Mr. Rodgers

The hon. Gentleman probably broadly reflects the views of the majority. However, I should say that there are two points of view, and many people are reasonably relaxed about the idea of going metric one day.

Mr. Moate

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that there is no obligation under the Treaty of Rome and recent directives to change from miles to kilometres? Will he stop equivocating and giving ambivalent answers? Surely the country is entitled to a clear and straightforward statement about the long-term intention—about whether we are to change or whether we are not. May I suggest that we do not change, because the people do not want it?

Mr. Rodgers

I have made clear to the House that in the first place there is no likelihood of change before the second half of the 1980s. Secondly, I have no intention of starting the process of consultation in the near future. I think that is an adequate reply. These are matters that the House may wish to discuss from time to time. There is no obligation upon the Government. We must see how we go after the consultation process has been completed.

Mr. Skinner

Is it not the height of hypocrisy for Tories to table Questions about the transformation from miles to kilometres when that is being advocated by those who took part in the shameful campaign to drag Britain into the Common Market? Is it not hypocrisy for them to put Questions to a Minister who at the time of the campaign was as bad as they were? If they really mean business, why did they march through the Lobby with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the rest of the Treasury Bench, or almost all of it, last Thursday to guillotine the European Assembly Elections Bill and to put £30,000 into the pockets of the prospective Members of the European Parliament? That is where the action should be taken.

Mr. Rodgers

I am not surprised that my hon. Friend is getting excited, because this is a matter upon which he feels deeply. However, I am in no great haste to move in this direction. It is not my first priority, and I suggest to the House that it need not worry too much.

Mr. Norman Fowler

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is no EEC obligation on us to scrap the mile? As my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) said, as no one wants to scrap the mile, cannot we simply resolve the issue by saying that we will not scrap it? Cannot the right hon. Gentleman say that?

Mr. Rodgers

There are matters that we all carry out without obligation because we think that they make the best sense. It is true that we have no obligation beyond our obligation to adopt the metric system. I think that the House should be relaxed on this issue. Of course, I should welcome a debate in the House on the whole matter whenever the House itself might choose.

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