HL Deb 08 July 1976 vol 372 cc1351-68

5.23 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Oram.)


My Lords, my sole reason for intervening at this stage, is that I wish to place on record my objection to this obnoxious and objectionable piece of legislation, and to make it as clear as possible that when the complications—


My Lords, with great respect, is the noble Lord in order at the moment in doing this ?


My Lords, I did not hear the noble Lord.


My Lords, I questioned whether the noble Lord is in order in doing this. Are we not breaking our own Rules?


My Lords, I am well aware that on the Third Reading one can refer only to what is in the Bill, but I am also aware—


My Lords, will my noble friend allow me to intervene? I believe that the Rules of the House are such that any comment should be made on the Motion, That the Bill do now pass. I believe that that is what my noble friend was saying.

On Question, Bill read 3a.

Clause 4 [Containers for goods]:

Lord ORAM moved the following Amendment:

Page 5, line 36, leave out from beginning to (" require ") in line 37.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move a small Amendment standing in my name. It is purely consequential upon an Amendment which had been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn and which I was pleased to accept. My Lords, I beg to move.


My Lords, I am perfectly happy with this Amendment. It is obviously right.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass—(Lord Oram.)


My Lords, with great respect I beg to repeat myself, much as I abhor repetition. One tries to be original in your Lordships' House, although sometimes only with the greatest difficulty. On this occasion, I repeat that my intervention is solely due to my objection to this obnoxious and objectionable piece of legislation. I want to be assured that in future, when the complications of this measure are realised by the general public, and particularly by consumers, that I can claim immunity as being in no way responsible. I refuse to encourage myself by any flattery that observations of mine would make sufficient impact on this audience to lead to a reversal of the decision already reached in acceptance of the Third Reading. That would be an extravagance of language, and one does not wish at this late stage in our proceedings to indulge in language of that kind.

During both the Committee stage and the Report stage, several complications were announced in advance. For that, I respect the candour of my noble friend the Minister who has been responsible for piloting this horrible piece of legislation through your Lordships' House. He has not sought to avoid a recognition of the consequences. Over and over again, he has made reference to them, as indeed he was bound to do. Indeed, I cannot recall in my long experience of Parliament which, if I may venture on a personal equation, now goes back 54 or 55 years—quite a long period—any piece of legislation which contained so much ambiguity, and was so lacking in specification and incisiveness. Of course, the purpose was embodied in the Bill—that was obvious—but the consequences were completely eradicated and brushed aside. Members of your Lordships' House who were present during the Committee and Report stages may recall that at no time did this Bill attract a very large audience. There was no remarkable enthusiasm for this Bill whatever the consumers outside, according to my noble friend the Minister, may have thought about it. Of their appreciation, or alleged appreciation, there was very scanty evidence in your Lordships' House. Indeed, if I may say so—again with respect, always with respect—there was a remarkable degree of ignorance about the matter and the likely result.

Let me take one or two examples. The latest example, which was in evidence at the Report stage, is about containers. One might suppose that the package to he developed is trifling—or the kind of cup or pot that might be introduced. A number of adjectives could be deployed here but I cannot think of all of them now. Perhaps they will occur to me after our deliberations have terminated. However, may I ask whether my noble friend will assure me that as this legislation proceeds towards its implementation it is not the intention of the Government to abandon the bottling of milk in glass bottles and to introduce cartons. If that is their intention, consumers will be very annoyed because cartons of milk placed on one's doorstep are vulnerable to birds and vermin, whereas glass bottles are immune. Consumers will be very much annoyed when they discover that the glass bottle, so familiar to them day by day, has been replaced by a carton which, as I have said, is very vulnerable, probably costs just as much as the glass bottle and is a quite unnecessary replacement. I want an assurance about that, and I want it all the more because the Minister was very doubtful about containers. It appears that there is to be a great variety of containers—I hope that my noble friend Lord George-Brown is quite well ?


My Lords, I was hoping that my noble friend might give way to me on the point of cartons as against bottles.


My Lords, may we leave bottles for the moment? I hope that my noble friend Lord George-Brown is not incapacitated because I saw him moving along, bent and almost infirm, and I want to be assured that he is all right before I proceed, as I understand that he is capable of addressing himself to the subject? Very well, I give way to my noble friend now.


My Lords, I wish only to ask my noble friend whether he is aware that he is quite wrong? Up to that point I had been enjoying his remarks. May I assure my noble friend that a carton of milk placed outside your door is virtually invulnerable to birds but that the metal cap of a bottle is invariably eaten by the birds before you can fetch it in indoors.


My Lords, I have no doubt that my noble friend Lord George-Brown is acquainted with animal life, a subject with which 1 am not familiar. Very rarely do I attend the zoo; I have not the time. If I may proceed, that is one question I venture to ask. Now I ask myself this question, but as I cannot find the answer myself perhaps my noble friend or some other Member of your Lordships' House can furnish it. We are discussing a Weights and Measures Bill which is associated with the subject of metrication. That I understand. Is it not true that metrication and its consequences in the legislation now before your Lordships' House derives from our association with the European Community ?


No, my Lords.


My Lords, that is a negative answer from all those who are acquainted with the subject. Incidentally, I am aware that to address a hostile audience is never easy, although I have had experience of it. In the course of time I have managed to convert people but there has always been some difficulty in the process. I recognise that I am addressing a hostile audience, but I bear it with my customary fortitude. It may be that some Member of your Lordships' House will come to my rescue and even agree to act with me as a Teller if there is a Division. I cannot force a Division but I can do it with a duality, and if there is any offer I shall welcome it with the usual appreciation.

On the subject of the EEC, the last subject that I want to discuss, this morning I happened to read The Times newspaper. Why should one not read The Times newspaper ?


My Lords, before the noble Lord deals with the EEC, will he allow me to intervene ? Surely he is aware that practically every country in the world except six—I cannot remember their names, but not one of them is in North America or in Europe—is either metric or going metric and that the movement towards metrication has absolutely nothing to do with the European Community.


I do not accept the noble Lord's observation that metrication has nothing to do with the Community. If it had not been for our association with the Community we should not have had decimalisation, or metrication would 'la have been mentioned. Nor would we have had value added tax and a great many other consequences which are now worrying so many people not only in this country but in other Community countries. As for other countries going metric, although they may be going metric a great many of them are going mad. I am not so sure that we ought to follow the example of other countries. We should stand on our own feet. We are always being told to stand on our own feet and a little more patriotism on the part of noble Lords would be an advantage. There is too much of the cry of " stinking fish ". We are not, after all, a bad country. We are a very fine people indeed. I am glad to have had that applause. I seem to be making some progress.

As I say, this morning I read The Times newspaper and came across a statement made by Mr. Max van der Stoel, the Foreign Secretary of the Netherlands. Obviously he is a very important person, and he referred to the situation in which the EEC now finds itself. He pointed out that even as recently as the 1960s the original motto of the Community was—I am using his language, as reported in The Times newspaper: Completion, enlargement and strengthening but he regretted that he had to say—here I quote him for it is not my language at all—that it has now developed into: stagnation, decline and escapism ". He went on to say that there are obvious signs of disintegration and, further, that the Community did not present at present an exhilarating picture; there was a lack of imagination. This is very interesting language. It is also a very sad comment on the situation. It is as a result of the stagnation, disintegration and consequences of entering the Common Market that we are now faced with this piece of legislation. I object to it. Perhaps we can have an answer either from our own Foreign Secretary, or from one of his subordinates, or from some other Member of the Government, to the question: is this true ? Is this the situation with which we are now confronted? We ought to know. Anyhow I make it clear, although perhaps it is unnecessary to proceed because I see that I am not going to convince your Lordships or going to have a Teller along with me. The other day a Member of your Lordships' House came to me and said that he would support me, but he does not appear to have arrived.

A noble Lord : He has arrived, my Lords.


My Lords, I did not expect that. You do not get support from your own Party; if you want support you have to look in another direction. Anyway, I am against this Bill. I oppose this legislation, and make it known to the general public and to the great body of consumers that I oppose it. I will not accept the consequences of this legislation. Those who are supporting it—Members of your Lordships' House, Members of another place, or at any rate a majority of them—I warn them : when the consumers begin to squeal and discover that their failure to get the quantity for which they pay, when they find that they have short weight and short measure they will blame those who are responsible, but it will not be me. I leave it at that.


My Lords, I intervene at this point because at Second Reading I gave the Minister notice that I would be moving some Amendments which in fact I have not moved, and in case he feels that I have " cold feet " or have retreated—and I should not like my noble friend Lord Shinwell to feel that—I think that an explanation is necessary to your Lordships. The National Consumer Council have had consultations with the Minister, and I say this in your Lordships' House in the hope that the Minister has seen fit to accede to certain very moderate demands that they have made in regard to this Bill, soon to be an Act.

With my noble friend I reject utterly the suggestion that has been made on many occasions that only a few small countries are left—and it seems to me that it has always been spoken in some derision—still using imperial measures. I am now waiting to hear that we are one of the few countries to drive on a certain side of the road and that a changeover to conform in order to progress will not cost a penny. This is what we shall be told; this is what we have been told about metrication.


Very sensible, too.


Exactly, my Lords. The noble Lord has already said, " Very sensible ", and that is the next thing we shall have to contend with. If you dare to say anything against it, you will be described as reactionary, backward-looking, in the Stone Age and so on. I would only sound a note of warning in support of those who said that there may be confusion. I have here a metric pack of a certain type of food which tells us that 500 grammes is equal to 1.10 lbs. We always used to have the pound expressed in a slightly different way; 1.10 of 1 lb. needs a little working out, but this is the first shot in the kind of labelling that we shall have to contend with and this is why the Consumer Council, on behalf of the consumers, sounded the note: " Let us go a little slower. Let us enter this thing so that no one is confused and certainly no one has the feeling of being cheated, and let us always wait until inflation is under control ". We have been promised that now in the "foreseeable future". With my noble friend, I feel that we may regret this change to metrication.

5.45 p.m.


My Lords, generally speaking, your Lordships' House is very much in tune with public opinion, certainly more so than the other place on a majority of occasions, but this Bill turns out to be an exception. The Press had given the impression that the official Opposition was going to oppose the Bill, which is why I only intervened very briefly on Second Reading, but the impression given was an erroneous one. The objections raised by the Opposition Front Bench were basically of a technical nature. The only serious opposition so far has come from three Backbenchers— admittedly three extremely distinguished BackBenchers—on the Government side of the House and I think it would be unfortunate if the public gained the impression that the opposition to this Bill came from one political quarter only.

Quite apart from the disadvantages to the consumer which have previously been outlined by the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, and indeed by the noble Lords, Lord Shinwell and Lord Wigg, it is the whole idea of compulsory metrication which I dislike. It is not a question of being " agin change " for the sake of being against change or opposing minor, sensible measures of harmonisation which do not destroy our traditions. For example, I would have no objection in principle to driving on the right hand side of the road if the change-over were thought to he financially advantageous to this country, because after all we have only been motoring for 80 years or thereabouts. For the same reason one could have no objection to petrol being dispensed in litres rather than in gallons, although I doubt whether it would help our export trade very much because petrol gauges are very rarely calibrated in exact multiples of a gallon. Similarly I should be only too delighted if electric razor points in this country were standardised with those available on the Continent. Nothing could be more of a nuisance than having to carry adaptors whenever one goes abroad.

Again, one could have no objection to not only wine being sold in litres and multiples of a centilitre but our gin and whisky—distilled in England and Scotland respectively—also, because of course very few people in this country ever think in terms of the fluid ounce, as the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, mentioned on the Second Reading of this Bill. But the inch, the foot, the yard, the mile; the ounce, the pound; the pint, the quart and the gallon are all part of our heritage —part of our way of life.

A noble Lord: And the acre.


And indeed the acre. I really believe that a great deal of the malaise and the disorientation and sense of bewilderment, and even possibly part of the crime rate in this country can be attributed to people having their familiar yardsticks, both literal and metaphorical, snatched away from them. It may be said that this is only a minor Bill which does not go so very far, but we all know where such small steps lead eventually. In South Africa it is now actually a criminal offence for any newspaper, magazine or other publication even to mention any form of imperial measurement. I do not believe that either major Party would go so far as to introduce such a draconian measure in this country but I cannot be absolutely sure, and for that reason alone, if for no other, I oppose this Bill.


My Lords, if at this stage we have two Tellers may I say why I will not go into their lobby. I do not think I have heard such irrelevant nonsense spoken in a hell of a long time. We are a nation—and I am at least as patriotic as my noble friend Lord Shinwell—and we are trying to conduct ourselves and to earn our living in a highly competitive world. What is the use of facing it with this word " tradition "? I do not know whether the noble Lord sitting behind me ever saw the musical called, " Fiddler on the Roof ". When the gentleman was asked to explain: " Why do we wear a hat on our heads? Why do we take our shoes off? " his answer was, " Tradition ". No better than that; it is tradition, but what use is tradition to us if the people with whom we are trading talk in terms of 500 grammes; if they talk in terms of litres? They know about kilometres. The noble Lord whose name unhappily I do not recall, speaks for a House of Lords which everybody is against—it is traditional, not belonging to the world in which we are living. My noble friend Lord Shinwell, as he well knows, loves to speak with his tongue in his cheek. He thoroughly enjoys it; he amuses us, and also annoys some of us somewhat. But he knew when he was Minister of Fuel, he knew when he was my Ministerial colleague, that we are dealing with the world in which we live; we have to deal with that world in terms which it understands.

The problem for most of us in this House—except my noble friend, of course —is that we are becoming older. We find it difficult to admit that the world is in the hands of younger people. It is, in fact, easier to teach one to ten than to teach nought to sixteen; it is much easier. It is easier to divide one to ten than nought to sixteen.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord ?


Well, my Lords, I will make just as much nuisance about it as did the noble Lord.


My Lords, recently we have been bragging, and quite rightly so, about the increase in our exports. Indeed, our export situation now is better than it has ever been, in volume and I think in price, but at any rate in volume. Has there ever been any difficulty because we still retain those old-fashioned ideas like the imperial pint, the ounce, the ton, and all the rest of it? Of course not. We are still exporting a vast amount of material every year to various countries. Does the noble Lord know of any country which has refused to trade with us, or to export to us, because we refused to accept metrication?


My Lords, the noble Lord gave way to me and I contented myself with asking the question. I give way to him, and he gives the answer as well. Like the question, it is erroneous. The answer is, " Yes ". We deal differently with those to whom we export than when we deal internally. We have a different tonne when we are exporting. We use metric figures when we are exporting. We keep this old, traditional thing, and I hope we will, until the ex-Member for Easington finally is called to the Valhalla of our fathers, after which we shall not even need it for home purposes.

I am engaged in the export business. Do not let us kid ourselves about exporting in metric terms. If we did not do so we would not sell a blessed thing. We accommodate our customers—I am sorry; if my noble friend will listen. We accustom ourselves to our clients' requirements, or else we should never be in the sales business. My noble friend was once a salesman, and I was once a salesman. You do not get into that business unless you deliver in your customers' terms. If you deliver in your own terms, you do not sell a thing, it is as simple as that. I am sorry I intervened, because I came in late, but I was a little provoked by my noble friend, and then I found that he had found himself a Teller.

I want to make this absolutely plain. Of course, I am a European. My noble friend, who must come from Asia, Australia, or somewhere else, declares that he is not. I am a European. I confess that, but I do not believe it is bias that makes me say that if we want to live in this half of the 20th century, and if we want to live prosperously in the first half of the 21st century, we have to deal in the terms that our friends, our neighbours and our customers talk in. We had better give tradition a little bit the go by. It is nice to sing a song about; it is nice to go to church for, but when you are in business, do it the way that it is done by everybody else. In that case, I am for the Bill. I hope it will not be challenged, but if it is, for once in a while I shall be voting with the Government.


My Lords, would the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, agree that we do not export acres?


My Lords, happily enough, we do not export land. But there is no problem for any normally educated farm manager who goes to seek a post abroad in turning acres into hectares. I will happily provide my noble friend, who was my honourable friend in the other place even though he sat on the other side, with a conversion table—


My Lords, I have one.


—but I do not see the relevance of the question, because we are not selling our land. We must be able to use a conversion table so that we can talk about some of these things. Two and a quarter pounds will do for a kilogramme; something not awfully different will do for a hectare. This nation of shopkeepers, this nation of merchants, ought to be able very easily to learn simple conversion tables if we want to stay a nation of merchants. What the hell else we can be I do not understand.

5.57 p.m.


My Lords, I am very surprised at the way we have gone over this subject again and again. We did it in Committee; we had Second Reading speeches then, and with all due respect to noble Lords, they have got worse and worse and more irrelevant and on more minor points. Broadly speaking, we can say that perhaps two of the more important things about metrication are, first, that our manufacturers have to manufacture in metric terms. This is vital in engineering, because one must get the sizes and threads right. They do not want to have to make two sizes. Secondly, for the future generation there are vast advantages. There are other things you can say about it, but I will not say them now. However, I will just make one further point.

My Lords, the last time I rose to speak, I wanted to speak about consumers but I did not, simply because the House had been rambling on for so long. But I will say—and I am sure it may save the Minister saying—that with the exception of the National Consumer Council, every consumer body, of which there is a large number, has expressed its opinion and has said: " We have decided to go in for metrication. For goodness sake!—let's get on with it in a sensible phased programme, and not drag our feet, because that is the worst thing for the consumer ". Having said that, you go on a straw pole. Do not for one moment imagine, or think that I imagine, that this is popular. It is not. It is just the same as when we changed over our coinage. It is not popular, and it is not very nice, but the people who are thinking in consumer terms want it, and want it to go on in a phased programme, not dragging our feet as we have done for the last few years.

5.59 p.m.


My Lords, I am, of course, in favour of the Bill, but there are a number of people who are extremely confused by it. It would seem to me that the Government should make even greater endeavours to explain it and to put at rest people's fears about the effects. My Lords, I was at a meeting this morning of the petrol industry, and a resolution came before that meeting in which was asked the question in relation to domestic sale of petrol—after all, we do not export any, and nor are we likely to export any, in other than tonnes—why should we have to sell petrol by the litre, 4.5609 litres to the gallon, or in other words at current prices 16.723p per unit, because it benefits nobody at all; so why should we make that change? I did not attempt to give an answer because I do not know the answer, but where people raise these questions I believe they are entitled to an answer. They are entitled to an answer in an endeavour to help them give support to the general system.

There is a fear that the quite dreadful circumstances that arose at the change to decimalisation will occur again. It is no good those of us who supported decimalisation saying, " Oh yes, there was a little bit of upset for a few days, but we soon got used to it ". That is prefectly true, but there were a lot of people who were quite unable to make the conversion and who were, to put it vulgarly, " had by the dishonest trader, and they fear this is going to happen again. As we progress with metrication, because, of course, we must for many of the reasons that the noble Lord, Lorge George-Brown, and the noble Viscount have given, ultimately it is going to make things a lot easier. Perhaps people of my age and people who are older will have to suffer inconvenience; but certainly in 10 or 15 years' time the young men of today who will be doing the trading will find everything so very much easier. But nobody is going to like any Government unless they understand completely and absolutely why this is being done, how it is going to benefit us, and how they are going to be protected. If I look at the consumer associations, obviously we are grateful for the kind of watchdog effect they have, but I do not believe that is really enough.

Just take one example. When we come to convert petrol pumps to litres—and I believe there are only three sites in the country currently converted—we are going to have to find something like £13 million or £15 million. The industry is going to find the money, but who is ultimately going to pay for it? Of course, the consumer is. Let us tell him here and now. It may be.04p per litre; I do not know what it will be. Let us make no mistake that the consumer knows that he is going to pay for that conversion, so that there will be no argument at the end of the day, " It is a swindle; I have been conned ". This is Government's responsibility, not consumer associations' responsibility. It is Government's responsibility to explain why and how, and exactly how the consumer is to be taught and protected against any deficiency that the change may make. I ask the Minister to give us that kind of assurance, that there will be a far better programme of education and re-education than the Metrication Board have so far managed to impose upon us.


My Lords, I will be extremely brief, and I certainly will not indulge in a fourth—I believe it is now the fourth—Second Reading type of debate we have had on this Bill. I should like to start by offering the apologies of my noble friend Lord Elton who unfortunately has to be away today. He has seen the Bill through so far from our side. I also express apologies from the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, who wanted to say a few words. I am afraid the number of speakers overtook him and he had to leave.

My Lords, we thank the noble Lord, Lord Oram, for the way he has taken this Bill through the House and for the consideration he has given us. I should also like to thank the members of his Department, who were most courteous and extremely helpful to us in the moving of our Amendments. On this side of the House we are not entirely happy with this Bill, as stated earlier, but due to the Amendments that have been accepted we feel that it is a much better Bill than when it started. On that brief note, I will conclude.

6.6 p.m.


My Lords, this is not the first occasion during the various stages of this Bill that opposition to it has been voiced by my noble friend Lord Shinwell, and not the first time that he has rallied a certain amount of support from other noble Lords. Today he has used such harsh words—in which he is an expert—about this Bill that I shall forever treasure the fact that hidden somewhere in Hansard during the proceedings on this Bill are some kind personal words that he said about me. But I do say to him that I really believe that he is utterly mistaken in his whole attitude to this Bill. It is a Bill which is desirable in order that this country can get in line with international practice, and, above all, that we can abandon, gradually and in an orderly fashion, the situation in which we now are of operating two systems side by side, the imperial system and the metric system.

I said in the Second Reading speech that this Bill does not have as its purpose the legalisation of the metric system. That was done in 1897. The metric system has been legal all of the life of my noble friend Lord Shinwell. He urged again today, as he did on earlier occasions, that consumers are against this. He apologised for repeating himself. I apologise, in replying to him, for I must repeat myself. All the evidence that we have from consumer organisations is that they are as eager as the Government that these changes should take place. I urge him to realise that these organisations do in fact study these things closely from the point of view of the people that my noble friend has earnestly in mind; namely, the consumers. Having studied them closely, they come up with the advice to the Government that we should proceed with the changes brought about by this Bill in as orderly a way as we possibly can.

My noble friend refers to the complexities of these matters. It is true they are complex. But I would urge him to realise that what is being done by this Bill is the setting up of flexible machinery—that is all—under which orders will be brought forward, one at a time, to deal with particular pieces of metrication, as consultations have taken place with the organisations affected and as the Government find themselves with the go-ahead, having had those consultations about particular commodities. It will be during that process that these complexities, about which my noble friend is rightly anxious, can be further examined and further explained.

May I take up, at this stage, the point quite rightly made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, who urges upon us the need for an educational programme for consumers. I am entirely with him, and again this is a point that has been made on a number of occasions during earlier stages of the Bill. We are aware that this is not something that the public can take on overnight. There will be the need for publicity and educational efforts of a considerable variety. I referred to the work that has so far been done by the Metrication Board at the level of industry. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, the chairman of the Metrication Board, is fully apprised of the fact that we are now embarking on a new phase, where the consumers will become much more directly involved in these matters. I have no doubt that his Board will be aware of this and will step up their educational programme in accordance with that need.

May I turn again to my noble friend Lord Shinwell, because he asked two specific points to which I would wish to reply. I can assure him that this Bill has nothing whatever to do with the change from milk bottles to milk cartons. Again, earlier I was asked by a noble Lord opposite whether the pint in respect of the milk trade would continue. I gave that assurance on that occasion; I give it again now. It is an illustration of the care with which the Government consult all the interests concerned, and in this case the dairy industry has been fully consulted.

The second point that my noble friend raised was the connection between what we are doing with this Bill and our membership of the European Economic Community. Again I am guilty of repetition in telling my noble friend that there is no connection between our membership of the European Economic Community and this Bill. This would have come along irrespective of our membership of Europe. I again remind him that on Second Reading I pointed out that the whole question was examined very thoroughly by the Hodgson Committee in 1950—and before this country's membership of the EEC had been raised—and that an official, thorough and careful examination of the question came down wholeheartedly in favour of the measures that now, more than 25 years' later, we are taking. It is true, of course, that there are connections with legislation that is going on in Brussels, but these are coincidental in time and need to be dealt with in parallel. Of course there are connections, but I reject categorically any suggestion that this Bill is caused by our membership of the European Economic Community.

My noble friend Lady Phillips referred to points she had made earlier, and I entirely accept what she says, that although she had indicated that she might wish to bring forward Amendments at a later stage and subsequently decided not to do so, this was in no way a sign of cold feet. I entirely accept this because I am aware that she informed your Lordships' House that the National Consumer Council is engaging still further in discussions with the Minister of State for Prices and Consumer Protection, and is pursuing in those discussions with him, the points which my noble friend made during the Second Reading. No doubt some satisfaction—perhaps not 100 per cent. satisfaction—will be the outcome of those talks, and no doubt again, if final satisfaction does not arise, there will be the opportunity in another place for Amendments to be put forward.

One other point my noble friend urged was that the pace of these changes should be slower. I have said on earlier occasions, and in fact again this evening, that the practical action arising out of this Bill will be by orders over time, and the pace at which the Government bring in those orders will still be open for discussion with the interests concerned. Therefore, my noble friend can rest assured that by passing this Bill tonight we do not close the door to consideration of the problems she has in mind; that is to say, the pace at which these changes can take place. But I think it would be less than frank of me if I did not say that, in my view—and I believe I speak here for my right honourable friend—we would wish to make progress in this matter as quickly as is consistent with orderly progress and with consumer information and clarity in accordance with the points that a number of noble Lords have raised.

I think I need make only two concluding remarks. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, in an interesting speech, raised a number of detailed points, which I think he will concede might more appropriately have been raised at an earlier stage, although he explained why he preferred to make them here. He suggested that in some way we might have metric for some things and imperial for others. I would urge him to think that this would lead to an unnecessary confusion. It is this continuing of two systems which we believe to be, in the long term, erroneous, and it is the eradication of the two systems side by side which we are planning.

I finish by thanking my noble friend Lord George-Brown for his intervention, and agree wholeheartedly with him on one of his main points when he says that we are dealing with younger people. In all the complexities of argument what stands out in my mind is that, whatever we, the 60-year-olds, the 70-year-olds, the 80-year-olds, and the 90-year-olds, may think, it is what is best for the 10-year-olds and 20-year-olds which matters—people whose education ought to be on rational lines, and who ought not to spend a lot of time learning both systems when we know that ultimately they will need to apply only one system. We hear of young people learning the metric system in their schools and then, because of the delay in these matters, when they get out into the world and in order to pursue the trades they want to pursue, they have to go back to learning the imperial system. If we are in that sort of situation, surely this is a very strong argument in the interests of the youth of our country that we should proceed as quickly as is consistent with good, orderly progress. I have no hesitation whatever in urging your Lordships to pass this Bill.

On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.