HL Deb 12 February 1998 vol 585 cc218-9WA
Lord Tanlaw

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether a business or an institution (such as the National Maritime Museum) is liable for prosecution under the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 for selling tickets to the general public purporting to record Greenwich Mean Time on the Prime Meridian, when the time printed is Co-ordinated Universal Time (UTC) on a meridian line 102.5 metres (336 ft) west of the point recognised by the IERS as from 1 January as the official Prime Meridian for the Millennium. [HL457]

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis)

The Trade Descriptions Act 1968 makes it an offence for a person acting in the course of a trade or business to apply to goods false or misleading statements, including statements about the place or date of manufacture or processing of goods. It is for local authority trading standards departments to decide whether to prosecute under the Act in any given case. I understand that the phrase "Greenwich Mean Time" as used in general parlance has effectively become a generic term by which people refer to the time in the UK's time-zone, irrespective of the method now used to calculate time. Similarly, the prime meridian, at which the tickets referred to by the noble Lord are produced, is one of several prime meridians which exist for a variety of technical reasons, and while it is not the meridian currently recognised by the International Earth Rotation Service, it remains the one which is historically known as the Greenwich Meridian. It would, therefore, seem highly improbable that trading standards officers would consider prosecution appropriate in the circumstances described in the noble Lord's Question.