Memo to Maggie

Tim Bentley

Sunday Times, 28 July 1985

REF: Metrication

PROBLEM: Progress with metrication has come to a halt causing confusion and wasting time and money for industry.

ANALYSIS: Since the abolition of the Metrication Board in 1979, the programme to encourage greater metrication has been patchy. Schoolchildren are coming through the education system now with a metric background, only to face a strange kind of dual system in industry, using both Imperial and metric units.

Government fears that the public would not adapt to using metric units have been proved wrong, as the successful switch at the petrol pump shows. But motorists are still faced with the paradox of buying fuel in metric units and following signposts marked in miles.

The attitude of leaving further progress in metrication on a voluntary basis is not working and causes confusion. Retailers still offer customers the opportunity to buy cloth or carpets in metres or yards, food in pounds or kilograms. People have to remember their foot and body measurements in baffling sizes. Weathermen oblige with the temperature in Celsius and Fahrenheit. The cost of this is difficult to estimate but must be high.

ACTION: Re-establish the Metrication Board, set target dates for further progress and stick to them. Do not be deterred by the American refusal to go metric. The Europeans are our most important trade partners.

Timothy Bentley