HC Deb 24 July 1969 vol 787 cc485-7W
Mr. Dobson

asked the Minister of Technology what steps he proposes to take to define the metric units of measurements which are to be authorised for use in this country.

Mr. Benn

The legislation which the Government have undertaken to introduce to facilitate the adoption of the metric system in this country, will include provision for defining the metric units of measurement which are to be authorised for all future legal purposes and for relating them to all other units at present in use.

In principle, the Government accept, as a basis for the changeover to the metric system, the International System of Units as recommended by the Conference Generale des Poids et Mesures, which was set up by international agreement in 1875 by the Convention of the Metre. The United Kingdom joined this Convention in 1885.

While, however, there is international agreement on the units of measurement to be used for the great majority of purposes, there are nevertheless some areas of genuine difficulty which will require expert consideration and the widest consultation with all the relevant interests, both within Government and throughout the economy, as well as internationally, before a complete system of measurement can be defined for purposes of the proposed legislation.

The Government have therefore decided that I should appoint an Advisory Committee to advise me on that part of the metric legislation which will provide for the legal definition of units of measurement and related matters concerning physical standards. My intention is that this Committee should be composed of experts from the principal Departments and Research Councils concerned, the Metrication Board, the British Standards Institution and other widely representative bodies whom I propose to invite to participate in the Committee's work. I have appointed Mr. A. H. A. Wynn, Head of my Standards Division, to be Chairman of the Committee.

In coming to this decision, the Government have considered whether the present need could be met by use of the Commission on Units and Standards of Measurement, which was contemplated under the Weights and Measures Act for the commission's composition and terms of reference would not permit either sufficiently wide consultation of the industrial, of fully comprehensive consideration of all the current issues concerning metric units, which now need to be resolved with some urgency in the light of technological advance in recent years and of the Government's decision to encourage metrication. I therefore propose to appoint a more broadly-based committee with wider terms of reference, which will also be invited to advise the Government on the future need for standing body to advise on units and standards of measurement in the place of the Commission contemplated under the 1963 Act.

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