, including North Herts District Council, calling for council officers to start prosecuting shopkeepers who sell loose goods, like bananas, in pounds and ounces. He says: “We should be building up our market in Hitchin, not wasting our council taxes stopping traders serving people in the units they want and understand?.
A leaked memo from the Labour-chaired Local Government Association calls on councils to “re-commence their enforcement of metrication regulations? and to “deal with offences in an appropriate manner with full confidence in the vires of UK law?. This opens the door for councils across the country to spend local taxpayers? money on investigating and prosecuting vendors who sell in imperial measures.
Local trader, Roy Watkins, whose family have served in Hitchin market for over 60 years told Peter Lilley: “We only want to serve our customers in the units they want and understand. Councils should be using council tax money to improve the market, not forced to waste it on pointless prosecutions?.
Peter Lilley condemned the plans: “People wonder why council tax bills are going through the roof without matching improvements in frontline services. One of the reasons is the constant stream of pointless directives and red-tape flowing from Brussels and Whitehall.
“North Herts District Council is now being instructed by Labour-run bureaucrats to spend money on prosecuting market traders and greengrocers for the ?crime? of serving goods like bananas in pounds and ounces.
“Local authorities should concentrate on providing services to the public not persecuting honest shopkeepers. Whether traders in this country choose to sell in imperial or metric units should be a matter between them and their customers.
“Conservatives would reinstate the right to sell such goods in pounds and ounces. We secured this change to this EU Directive before and would do so again. We are on the side of consumer choice, small businesses and the pound ? in all its forms.?
Note to editors:
Notes to Editors
Local Government Metrication Circular
Trading standards is administered by local councils (by county councils in two-tier areas). The Local Government Association is the representative body of local authorities in England. It is chaired by Labour.
Part of the LGA is LACORS – the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services, which supports local authorities in regulating treading standards across the UK. Its Management Committee is made up of local councillors nominated by the LGA (and similar bodies in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). Its political composition is 5 Labour, 2 Conservative, 1 Sinn Fein, 1 LibDem, 2 Independents.
The Local Government Association has recently sent out a ?public protection bulletin? to all councils. The bulletin calls for councils to start prosecuting shopkeepers who may be serving customers in imperial weights and measures. It states, ?LACORS is now encouraging Trading Standards to re-commence their enforcement of metrication regulations. Many local authorities have been justifiably cautious in their approach to the enforcement whilst waiting the outcome of the [European Court] appeal, but may now deal with offences in an appropriate manner with full confidence in the vires of UK law? (LGA, Public Protection Bulletin, March 2004).
About the Metrication Directive
Since January 2000, traders have been forced to sell fruit, vegetables and other ?loose from bulk? produce in kilograms and grams rather than in pounds and ounces. This is a result of the expiry of the opt-out (the ?derogation?) permitting the sale of loose goods to be sold in imperial measures.
The EU Directive dates from 1979. The opt-out was negotiated by the last Conservative Government in 1989 and lasted for ten years until 31 December 1999. The EU Commission agreed to a further 10 year derogation to permit dual measures to be displayed, provided the metric measure predominates, because all EU member states sought such a derogation to avoid having to produce separate labels for their exports to the USA which continues to require imperial measures. Yet in 1999, the Labour Government did not seek a continuing derogation for the domestic sale of loose goods in imperial units even though such goods are not internationally traded.
Sellers of loose goods, market traders, delicatessens, et al must therefore weigh and sell only in metric units, although they may display prices in imperial units too, provided the metric predominates. Polls show a continuing preference by shoppers for imperial units.
The first ?metric martyr? was the late Steven Thorburn, a fruit-and-veg trader. He was the first to be prosecuted after trading standards officers seized his scales in July 2000. He was fined and given a six-month conditional discharge in April 2001 by Sunderland City Council for selling a pound of bananas from his stall in Southwick market.
A bunch of five bananas weighs 0.77 kilograms, just over one and a half pounds (1 lb, 11 oz). Source:
The last Conservative Government secured an extension of the rights of traders to continue using imperial measurements. Labour?s failure to match this demonstrates a determination to drive out imperial measurements and to replace them with an enforced metrication policy which is unnecessary and unwanted. This has resulted in the oppressive prosecutions of market traders for the ?crime? of selling bananas weighed in pounds and ounces. Local authorities should concentrate on providing services to the public not persecuting honest citizens. Whether traders in this country choose to sell in imperial or metric units should be a matter between them and their customers. Conservatives would reinstate the rights to sell such goods in pounds and ounces. Conservatives secured this change to the EU Directive before and would do so again.