I welcome the British government’s decision to advise councils not to prosecute traders for selling goods in Imperial measures. But I am concerned that the law is still on the statute book, and that traders selling a pound of potatoes are still committing a criminal offence, even though they may not be prosecuted.
We’ve only won half the battle. It’s good that traders can keep using pounds and ounces without fear of prosecution. But it brings the law into disrepute when we have a clear law on the statute book, which is then set aside by executive discretion. The EU must now amend the relevant directive, and the British government must amend the UK law accordingly.
I will now be calling on the European Commission to change the law (see Written Question below).
It’s noteworthy that the government’s decision is just one of a string of populist measures — for example, Immigration Minister Phil Woolas’s demand for new immigration controls — which suggest that Gordon Brown may be toying with the idea of an early election. We must now demand clarity and certainty on pounds and ounces — and for the government’s change of heart to be made permanent
I can’t write about this issue without crediting the Sterling work of Neil Herron, who made the Metric Martyrs issue his own, who worked tirelessly on the issue, and deserves much of the credit for this partial victory.
WRITTEN QUESTION TO THE COMMISSION
Use of traditional British (Imperial) measures
The Commission will be aware that Commissioner Verheugen recently affirmed that the EU had no intention of banning the use of Imperial measures (pounds and ounces) in the UK. The British government has issued advice to local councils not to prosecute traders for the offence of using traditional measures.
Does the Commission agree with me that to leave a law on the statute book, but to set it aside on the basis of executive or administrative whim or discretion, tends to undermine the rule of law, to create uncertainty, and to give undue power and patronage to bureaucracies? Will the Commission now recognise the will of the British people, and amend the relevant directive so as to make the right of the British people to use Imperial measures both explicit and permanent?
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