HL Deb 24 November 1981 vol 425 cc713-4

6.14 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Bellwin) rose to move, That the regulations laid before the House on 19th October be approved.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I welcome this opportunity to explain why we are introducing these regulations. In the first place, I wish to make it quite clear that they are not controversial and I assure your Lordships that it is not in any way an attempt to introduce metrication by the back door. What we are doing is bringing our primary and secondary legislation into line by removing from the former certain proscribed imperial units. The need for these amendments arises from United Kingdom obligations under the EC Directive 80/181 on Units of Measurement (formerly Council Directive 71/354 as amended by 76/770), which obliges us to metricate certain units wherever they occur in our law. The task has already been done in our secondary legislation in the course of amendments for other purposes, but a specific exercise is needed to do the job in primary legislation. It is a simple matter of completing a task which is already three-quarters or more done—and it would, indeed, he anomalous if it were not brought to a conclusion.

In this amendment, the units involved are: square inch, ton, hundredweight and degree Fahrenheit. I should like to emphasise that only proscribed units have been metricated, using conversions which are well known in our secondary legislation and have caused no difficulty to manufacturers or anyone else. Imperial units such as mph are not included in this metrication exercise, as the Community has postponed making a decision on this and other controversial units until the end of the decade. These amendments therefore will have no effect at all on our road signs.

The draft regulations form part of a larger metrication exercise to delete references to proscribed units which have been found mainly in the Interpretation sections, (containing vehicle definitions) of the Road Traffic Acts 1960 and 1972. the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967 and the Transport Act 1968. These Acts have been metricated by two statutory instruments under the negative resolution procedure. They are Statutory Instruments Nos. 1981/1373 and 1374, which were laid before Parliament on 5th October 1981 and came into effect on 1st November 1981. The metrication exercise is being carried out by three statutory instruments, as our legal advice was that they could not be combined in a single instrument.

The present regulations metricate certain imperial units in the vehicle definitions found in Schedule 5 to the Road Traffic Regulations 1967 and the Motor Vehicles (Speed Limits on Motorways) Regulations 1973. These lay down vehicle speed limits, but the regulations make no changes to the speed limit requirements themselves, which are still subject to review following the Armitage Inquiry.

There were no adverse comments on the draft regulations on consultation, nor were any expected, as manufacturers are familiar with the units proposed which have been used in motor vehicle secondary legislation for some time. It is against this background that I submit that the regulations will harmonise motor vehicle primary and secondary legislation without causing any hardship or surprise to manufacturers or users. I therefore invite this House to approve them. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Motor Vehicles (Variation of Speed Limits and Speed Limits on Motorways) (Metrication) Regulations 1981 be approved—(Lord Bellwin.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.