HL Deb 20 July 1897 vol 51 cc513-4

in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, said the Bill had passed through the House of Commons without any serious opposition. The circumstances under which it was proposed to Parliament by the Board of Trade were these. During the Session of 1895 a Select Committee of the other House 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; and (3) that the system be taught in all public elementary schools as a necessary and integral part of arithmetic. The last recommendation could, if thought expedient, be carried into effect without legislation. But past experience did not encourage them to go in that direction, because when his predecessor at the Scottish Office attempted to introduce the system into Scottish schools, he was met with so much opposition that the provision in the Code had to be withdrawn. The Government were not prepared to adopt the second recommendation—that after two years the system be made, compulsory. The Bill carried out the first of the recommendations of the Select Committee, and the evidence taken by the Select Committee clearly proved that t here was a genuine demand among some of the large trades in some of the important commercial centres of the country for the legalisation of the system, and from the reports of some of our Consuls abroad it seemed to be of considerable importance that the system should be adopted, and to be shown that if adopted it would prove of material benefit to British trade. The Government did not intend to make the system compulsory, and there did not seem to be any real demand for it among retail traders or any necessity for making it compulsory at present. An attempt to go in advance of public opinion in a matter of the kind would be sure to excite opposition and put retail traders to much expense. Under these circumstances it had been thought right to confine the present Bill to simply legalising the system for those who required it without going further just new.


said that as one of the survivors of the old Standard Commission which reported in 1870, he was glad to find embodied in this Bill one of the principal recommendations of of that Commission. Even in 1870 the legalisation of the metric system was deemed advisable by the Commission, which went very deeply into the whole subject. The Government were right in not attempting to do more at the present time than to render the metric system legal in this country.

Read 2a (according to Order), and committed to a Committee of the whole House on Thursday next.