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CTSI calls for a consultation and impact assessment in wake of UK Government's proposed Imperial Unit reintroduction

Posted 22/09/21

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) responded to the UK Government's plans to reintroduce imperial units and, noting that this is a headline proposal, sought assurances that CTSI will be able to provide its evidence and views via a robust consultation and impact assessment that looks at the costs and benefits to businesses, consumers and regulators. CTSI looks forward to informing this consultation and assessment.

It is good to see the Government recognising the importance of the role of weights and measures in the UK economy, but this proposal comes when there is limited capacity to enforce these crucial standards. It causes us to question how this proposal will meet the test of 'levelling up' and why we would want to reintroduce a system now which cost significant amounts to replace when the country moved to metric last century.

In the challenging climate we find ourselves in, our energies should be focused on how we can fire up the UK economy and extend global trade. CTSI supports the UK Government's ambitions on this but needs to see the evidence that putting significant time into reintroducing imperial measures will not distract us from this goal. When the vast majority of the rest of the world works in the metric system, reverting to imperial also appears to be counter-intuitive, introducing another complexity, just as the UK seeks to trade as Global Britain. The move could risk creating further complications and confusion for UK and international businesses that have relied on the established metric system for decades. 

There are other ways the UK Government can distance itself from the EU to build our status as an independent trading nation which would have far better consequences for the public. For example, seizing the opportunity to make sure we retain the most rigorous consumer protection standards that ensures we have confident consumers who can stimulate the UK market. A reintroduction of imperial measurements, especially if done so alongside metric, could confuse consumers with a two-tier system. There are other broader implications, too, not least that the UK has an education system focused on the established metric system, taught since 1974. 

Any change would also require a mammoth effort by metrologists, other regulators and local government at a time when specialised capacity is depleted and which would be diverted from other essential tasks. We ask that the Government carefully reviews the drivers and implications for this proposal and ensure there is a thorough review of the costs of implementing the changes and the impact on existing trading standards infrastructures. 

CTSI Chief Executive, John Herriman, said: "While CTSI recognises the Government's desire to bring a feel-good factor to changes brought about by EU Exit, we must also recognise that behind the headlines, significant resources will need to be invested in implementing the reintroduction of imperial units.

"Today, we are calling for a consultation and impact assessment of these significant proposed changes, which will have a broad impact on the UK's domestic economy and on international trade.

"Unfortunately, metrology and other aspects of trading standards and consumer protection have experienced significant cuts to resources over the past decade and as such would require substantial investment to undertake this task. 

"Our considered view is that it would be better to invest in supporting existing trading standards services to help drive the much needed economic recovery rather than diverting attention into re-establishing a system that for very sound reasons the country stopped using last century."

ENDS

Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI)

CTSI is a training and membership organisation that has represented the interests of the Trading Standards profession since 1881 nationally and internationally. We aim to raise the profile of the profession while working towards fairer, better informed and safer consumer and business communities. CTSI's members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities and in businesses. www.tradingstandards.uk

CTSI Press Office: pressoffice@tsi.org.uk, 01268 582240



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