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Pints under attack as Lord Howe demands metric-only UK

Weights and measures a 'uniquely confusing shambles'

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Lord Geoffrey Howe of Aberavon has demanded that the UK goes fully metric as soon as possible, describing the current mix of miles and kilometres and pints and litres as a "uniquely confusing shambles".

Speaking yesterday in the House of Lords, the former chancellor and deputy prime minister insisted: "British weights and measures are in a mess. We have litres for petrol and fizzy drinks but pints for beer and milk. We have metres and kilometres for athletics and the Ordnance Survey but miles per gallon for cars. We have the metric system for school but still have pounds and ounces in the market."

The ex-Foreign Secretary said that while "every civilised society has recognised the need for one set - and only one set - of standard measures", Blighty is a nation "living in the imperial past", and divided between a "metrically literate elite" and a "rudderless and bewildered majority".

Lord Howe noted that he'd been responsible for the metrication programme, as minister for consumer affairs in the Edward Heath government, but as a "penny-saving Chancellor of the Exchequer" had "readily accepted the decision to abolish the Metrication Board".

While his argument that us Brits should "complete the changeover to metric as swiftly and cleanly as possible" has merit, we'd advise him not to hold his breath. The peer himself admitted: "As long ago as 1862, a Select Committee of the House of Commons unanimously recommended the adoption of the metric system which had swept across Europe and elsewhere."

Since we've already taken around 150 years to not become a fully metric nation, and have at times resisted attempts to have foreign measures rammed down our throats, it seems likely the "dithering" will continue for the foreseeable future. ®

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