HL Deb 21 July 1970 vol 311 cc857-8

4.17 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to make one further brief comment about this second draft Order, which I now ask your Lordships to approve. This will enable the sand and ballast industries, and the ready-mixed cement mortar and concrete industries to adopt the metric system on January 1, 1971.

As your Lordships will know, the building industry has been well advanced in adopting the metric system. The previous Order will make the use of metric cubic measures legal and will enable the Board of Trade to make regulations about trucks calibrated in metric units. But even with these trucks the industry cannot adopt the metric system, since Schedules 5 and 7 do not allow the sale of sand and ballast by the cubic metre. This draft Order removes that obstacle. It proposes to amend Schedule 5 to the 1963 Act to permit sand and ballast to be sold in England and Wales by volume in units of 0.2 cubic metre, as an alternative to units of half a cubic metre or by net weight. It also proposes a slight increase in the exemption limit for small sales in England and Wales and, if the control were applied there, in Scotland.

The draft Order also proposes to amend Part II of Schedule 7 to the Act to permit ready-mixed cement mortar and concrete to be sold in England and Wales in multiples of 01 cubic metre as an alternative to multiples of a quarter of a cubic yard. It proposes a slight amendment to the exemption limit for small sales, and also that sales in Scotland should be subject to the same rules and with the same exemption limit as those in England and Wales These proposals have been agreed by all the trade interests and other parties consulted.

My Lords, I would explain that although this Order allows sales in metric units it does not require them to be conducted on this basis. I understand that most sand and ballast merchants propose to adopt the metric system next year, and this draft Order will enable them to do so. However, some traders and their customers may prefer, at least for the present, to retain the cubic yard, and in that event they will be free to do so. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Draft Weights and Measures Act (Amendment of Schedules 5 and 7) Order 1970, laid before the House on July 8, 1970, be approved.—(The Earl of Bessborough.)


My Lords, when I was at the Board of Trade I found it in nearly all respects, an excellent Department, but there were some small pockets with a romantic love of obscurity. They have been good enough to provide a memorandum explaining this Order, and it is a real exercise in obscurity. I will pick out one point and ask the noble Earl if he can explain it. The memorandum says: The Draft Order specifies the whole of Scotland for the provisions relating to the sale of ready-mixed concrete but not of sand and ballast. Why should the sale of sand and ballast in Scotland not be subjected, exceptionally, to the same procedure as regards metrication as in England? The memorandum is a foolscap page. It explains in rather obscure words everything one does not need to know. But it poses this question and leaves it unanswered. I wonder whether the noble Earl can oblige with an explanation.


My Lords, I think I can satisfy the noble Lord on this point. There are two reasons why it has not been done. First, sand and ballast, unlike ready-mixed cement, can be sold by net weight and there is a shortage of weighbridges in some areas of Scotland. Secondly, unlike ready-mixed cement, sand and ballast when sold by volume have to be carried in calibrated lorries or in brim measures, and such lorries are not used to any appreciable extent in Scotland. I hope that the noble Lord understands that answer.


My Lords, may I intervene? I should prefer the Minister not to talk about "ready-mixed cement", because it does not become the subject of this Order until the cement is mixed with something else.

On Question, Motion agreed to.