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Metric & Imperial : Market led solutions

1 Comment 15th March 2013

The EU recently gave the UK derogation from regulations banning the use of dual metric – imperial pricing of goods.  The proposal herein is to create market led permanent solutions to the UK’s prolonged changeover from imperial to metric. Market led solutions and consumer choice are strongly supported by both parties to the coalition government.


General principles

The primary system is SI/Metric. 

The secondary system is Imperial.

No changes to regulations regarding packaged goods.

Dual scale measuring devices and pricing to show both scales or prices with equal clarity, metric scale or price must be above (horizontal), left of (vertical) or outside (arc) of imperial. Metric scale or price fonts may be larger than imperial but not smaller.

All changes are voluntary, there is no compulsion.  The remaining commercial imperial measures will survive on their own merit, not by diktat of government or the EU.  In every area described the end user (retailer or customer) can choose whether or not to continue using imperial units or voluntarily change to metric.  Because the changes are voluntary there are minimal costs associated with all the suggestions.  By creating a fully metric system with imperial options there will be no future conflict with EU directives as recently happened with motorcycle tests (at substantial cost to the taxpayer).


Loose and bulk retail purchases

Permanent statutory right for retailers to use approved dual scale metric/imperial measuring devices for loose and bulk products.  For example meat, fruit, vegetables, road fuel.

Electronic devices may permit a change from metric to imperial display upon request of a customer.  Compulsory automatic reversion to metric measurement and pricing to occur after an imperial transaction is completed.  This facility would be offered at the discretion of a trader and would not be a statutory right.

 All dual scale devices must be capable of being verified by inspectors using metric checking devices.


Existing imperial preferences



Optionally may be sold in pint or two pint units (as well as .5 or 1 litre) only when in a container that can be returned to the vendor (or a scheme member).  Statutory requirements:

1. Doorstep delivery vendors must offer a doorstep collection for returned  empty reusable containers.

2. Shops selling milk in reusable  containers must place a collection point for empties within 10 metres of each entrance (inside or outside). 

3. All other milk containers to contain approved metric quantities.


Beer & Cider on draught

Option for publicans to sell these in either approved metric or imperial measures.  Only one system is to be allowed for each licensed premise.  Trade representatives will design a suitable logo that can be prominently displayed in every licensed premise to indicate which system is in use.  Suggested metric measures are 33.3cl and 50cl.  Expectations would be for a very low take up by public houses, but restaurants may find metric measures useful.



National speed limits to be changed to nearest metric equivalents but imperial signage will be retained until market indications show the majority of drivers are using metric in vehicle displays. The market indicator for changing speed limit signs will be met when a majority of vehicles presented for their first MOT test use metric displays

New limits will be 35, 50, 65, 80, 100 and 120 km/h.  Note only one of these shares the same numerical value as the existing mph limits and all are marginally higher than the mph limits they replace.  For example speed limit signs:

20  speed limit 35 km/h

30  speed limit 50 km/h

40  speed limit 65 km/h

Drivers will have the statutory right to select either a metric or imperial in-vehicle display and consequently use either the lower signed mph limits or the higher statutory km/h limits.  Switchable readouts are already a standard feature of vehicles with digital displays.  All speed safety checks and permitted margins of error will change to reflect the new km/h limits.

All new/replacement road signs (except those relating to speed) will display metric data; but dual display of imperial units will remain an option to be used at the discretion of the highway authority.  Existing signs need only be replaced at the end of their life or when changes are made to the road where they are sited. The indicators “mi” or “mile/s” will be used for all new signs that show distances in statute miles.  New/replacement long distance signs will carry dual km/mile figures until the market (MOT first test returns) shows a majority of drivers using their metric display.

Manufacturers of motor vehicles will be required to fit dual displays until the market (MOT first test returns) shows a majority of drivers using their metric display.  Thereafter metric only displays may be fitted by manufacturers, but dual displays will still be permitted either as standard or as a customer option.

Speed displays will follow the principles outlined under general principles except MPH will remain outside of km/h for analogue dial displays.

Why does this matter?

Governments have held back from metrication in some areas because of perceived antagonism from some sections of the general public and media, but have mandated metrication against organised opposition in others.  The recent EU derogation and technological advances create a window of opportunity for market led solutions that will empower users of both systems and remove problems for the UK Government relating to implementation of EU directives where conflicts exist as a result of the remaining statutory imperial system preferences.

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One Response to Metric & Imperial : Market led solutions

  1. ian says:

    Bugger the metric system and all who want to ram it down our throats!!

    Let us always use pints and miles
    Let us always drive on the left
    Let us always be anti EU

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