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Thursday, 19 April, 2001, 08:58 GMT 09:58 UK
Scales of justice: Is it right to outlaw imperial?

A market trader has been convicted of breaking EU rules by selling his fruit in pounds and ounces in the first prosecution of its kind in Britain.

Sunderland City Council took fruit-and-veg trader Steven Thoburn to court for refusing to convert to European-approved metric kilos and grammes.

The 36-year-old has attracted huge support for his stand for imperial measurements.

"The eyes of Europe will be on Sunderland while this case is in progress because it will decide the future of our traditional weights and measures, " said Tony Bennett from the UK Independence Party.

But is this the right decision? Should the trader have been prosecuted? Is the traditional pint of beer safe?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction

I find the idea that the Metric Martyr is standing up for Britain in the face of European imperialism both ludicrous and offensive. The rest of the world uses the metric system, so why shouldn't we? It's far easier to use and is essentially the norm in many fields - engineering, construction, science. The fact that the US uses it is to me, in these post-Kyoto days, all the more reason NOT to use it. This is yet another example of the anti-European right making a xenophobic mountain out of a molehill. And wasn't it Sunderland Council who brought the action against Mr Thoburn? Not quite the combined might of the European Commission. More like a British body enforcing British law. Such people should stop taking it for granted that the Daily Mail is right, and open their eyes.
Doug Burgess, UK

I think it is very sad what happened to the greengrocer in Sunderland - however it is an inevitable step towards full metrication, which started way back in the sixties. The only thing I will miss is all the fun when going abroad to France trying to convert my purchases back to pounds and ounces!
Richard Barron, England


Our Imperial measurements have served us well

B. Duncan, England
Government dictatorship on how we, the people of Britain, should be able to purchase vegetables and other foodstuffs is totally unacceptable. Our Imperial measurements have served us well and are understood by a vast number of the population, as also is metric by the young. I can see no valid reason why we should now lose freedom of choice and be forced into becoming clones as "Europeans". How we buy and how it is sold, when it comes to weight and pricing, should be available to both buyer and seller in Imperial AND Metric measurement and pricing. I am English. I cannot change that fact and refuse to apologise for my pride in my country (I am not an OAP - yet!). Why does this appallingly incompetent Labour government want to destroy every English tradition and ruin the very foundation of GREAT Britain with their gimmicky childish behaviour and dumbing down of everything so that we become "like other Europeans".
B. Duncan, England

There is a wider issue than having a choice to buy products by metric or imperial. Consumers are being defrauded by the supermarkets' use (with government approval) of the device called "product shrinkage". This is using the confusion caused by metrication of weights and measures to reduce the contents of thousands of brands of canned and packaged foods, while continuing to sell these to the consumer at the same price as before.
Ralph E Snape, UK

I cannot believe that people are so sentimental about awkward Imperial units (did you ever have to do long division with yds/feet/ins or stones/lbs/oz?) Units are a means of measuring, not an expression of a national culture! The UK, unlike the rest of the Commonwealth is suffering from confusion due to the metrication at a snail's pace. I did all my O-levels using metric back in 1973 yet faced an imperial(ist) world outside my school gates. I had to wait 26 years before I could buy 100g of meat at the supermarket delicatessen counter. Ordnance Survey maps have been metric since the 1970s, yet the DETR states that it is illegal for footpath signs to be in metres/km! Is that choice? I do not want my kids to have to go through the mess of imperial units. Let's grow up and get the transition over and done with!
Roddy, UK


US and English measures are a collection of archaic and vaguely related units that can barely be called a system

Jean-Paul Carette, FRANCE
Freedom? Freedom has nothing to do with this. I am curious to see what would happen in a free country like the US if a shopkeeper would try to use an unauthorized and uncalibrated scale to sell goods and further resist! It has nothing to do with the EU or culture. Metrication started before the UK joined the EU. Japan did not lose its culture by becoming metric. It is just a question of common sense. US and English measures are a collection of archaic and vaguely related units that can barely be called a system. They are unsuitable for scientific or technical computation. They may be OK for selling bananas or hanging a picture on a wall but metric can be used for that too. So there's no need to keep two systems (in fact only one as US and UK measures are defined by metric units). It is counterproductive, costly and prone to errors. Thumbs down to the inch!
Jean-Paul Carette, FRANCE

For those who say this is a matter of freedom of choice, I want to point out that it has been recognised for at least 4000 years (since the time of the Sumerians) that one of the crucial roles of government is to standardise weights and measures. This is one of the hallmarks of civilisation. It allows consumers to compare products, and hence freely choose. It is the very foundation of the idea of a market.
A Dawar, UK

The British authorities should spend a few measly thousands of pounds (money) on a proper public information campaign to help people to understand metric in their everyday lives. We had a proper public info campaign for decimalisation in 1971 (30 years ago). We all huffed and puffed then about our national identity but got on with it and felt no less British for spending pounds and new pence. The Banana man actually could have done a lot more to help people understand what half a kilo of fruit looks like instead of falling prey to politicos who have now caused him a lot of anxiety. It's hard work being a martyr. As a 50+, trained-in-Imperial cook, I find metric much easier. Just don't convert and look straight at the scales and jugs in your home. They've been dual measures for decades. It's not rocket science for heaven's sake. Now I shall enjoy my 1.5-kilo joint of British beef with my 180g jar of horseradish. Lovely!
Roz Denny, UK


Whilst I can use metric measures, I always use imperial for cooking

Caron, England
Whilst I can use metric measures, I always use imperial for cooking. This is in part due to using old family recipes that have been passed down from my Great-grandma. I did once attempt to convert one of the recipes to metric. However, I had to round up some of the metric values - hence the results did not taste the same.
Caron, England

It could only happen in the UK. It took a ten-pound sledgehammer to belt an 80kg nut. Does it really matter what measures are used to weigh fruit and veg? Most by people these days buy their groceries by the container size. Fresh fruit and veg is purchased by bundle. It must be tough for the imperial die-hards when they cross the Channel or do they take conversion tables with them. Get with it UK, metric measurements are here to stay. Don't worry the 'pint' will still be around and the cops will give robbers' height in metric and imperial. Rest assured the world will not come to an end.
Peter Haslett, Australia

The argument should not be based on what type of measurement is easy to use. It is about our freedom of choice. When I visit my supermarket and want a pint of milk, I want a pint, not half a litre. Why should we kowtow to Europe? How many times have we blindly followed Euro-idealism only to have it backfire on us. Look at the fish quotas, the beef. Euro law is for the Europeans not the British, we have survived and prospered as an island. We need to stay apart to prevent stagnation and decline.
Andy, UK

I find it crazy that someone could be prosecuted for something like that, irrespective of whether metric or imperial is a better system. It's a free country over there, isn't it? Why can't the man sell in the units he wants to sell in?
Nick, USA

I am an engineer now retired. In 1970 I changed job and from imperial to metric. I took it positively, and was "bilingual" in a few months. This trader should have done similarly and would then be a help to his customers.
Dr J B Siviour, Heswall, UK


Canada converted to the metric system in the 1970's

Peter McGuinness, Canada
Canada converted to the metric system in the 1970's. By and large, people still buy their fruit and vegetables in pounds, and their petrol in litres. Everyone gives their height and weight in imperial measures - should medical or government functionaries want the metric equivalents, they do the conversion. Hardly a soul knows how hot or cold it is by listening to the temperature in degrees Celsius. Highway speeds and distances are given in kilometres or km/h - but everyone thinks of distances in miles. The younger people, who know no other system than metric (officially, anyway) are just as confused as the older generation. Governments should ensure that weights and measures are uniform, but should not impose a standard on people which they do not want.
Peter McGuinness, Canada

I don't think we should be too heavy-handed in outlawing the use of imperial measurements, but I do wish the Government would sponsor a campaign proclaiming the benefits of the metric system. The metric system is far superior both in its simplicity and its ties to natural substances such as water.
Philip S. Hall, UK

As an engineer of more years than I care to contemplate, I have had to be numerically conversant with both systems. In engineering there is no question: use metric. But in everyday life non-metric units work well and are the right size. Who in his right mind ever want 100 grammes of anything? It's your choice. I can do either.
Bernard Harrison, England

Of course he should be prosecuted. We cannot choose which laws to obey and which to ignore - that would be anarchy. He is obviously a stooge of the UK Independence Party who are only in it for the propaganda value to themselves. I hope he quickly comes to his senses. And for goodness sake, let's complete metrication as soon as possible, we are the laughing stock of the world.
William B, England


Forcing people to adopt the metric system by threat of prosecution only lends to resentment and resistance.

M. M. Zaman, UK in US

Although the metric system should eventually become the standard in the UK, it would make sense to introduce it gradually by products initially being shown in both imperial and metric weights. Eventually only the metric weights should be shown. Forcing people to adopt the metric system by threat of prosecution only lends to resentment and resistance.
M. M. Zaman, UK in US

Give them 25.4 millimetres and they'll take 1,609.344 metres. When I go to the pub and ask the barman for 568ml of beer, or McDonalds sell me a 113.6-grammer, or my car tyres instruct me to inflate them to 10342709.63712 Newtons per square metre, then I will accept that the law no longer recognises imperial. This is nothing more than a pathetic bureaucrat with nothing better to do than interfering in the business of an otherwise honest man who is only trying to provide what his customers want.
John B, UK

If unification is so important, what would the rest of Europe say to having a common language?
Paul R, UK


If the commission were elected through a Europe-wide election, how many of you would bother to vote?

Alan, UK
I would be interested to know how many of these people who moan about EU unaccountability went out and voted for their local MEP. Probably very few. If the commission were elected through a Europe-wide election, how many of you would bother to vote? Sadly, I feel a hugely important event like that would get next to no interest from the public compared to something as emotive (but trivial) as the phase-out of the Pound or the Imperial system.
Alan, UK

Bring back the Ducket, Doubloon, Bushel and Grain!
Chris Klein, England

No of course it is not right to outlaw Imperial. Why not give us the choice, metric or imperial? But it appears yet again that we are dancing to the EU tune. What on earth has happened to BRITISH Justice?
Judith Broadhead, England


When are we going to start really living in the 21st century?

Ian McDonald, UK
When are we going to start really living in the 21st century? We are in this ridiculous mess because the English have an acute fear of change.
Ian McDonald, UK

Surely now McDonalds will be prosecuted for selling quarter-pounders?
John Bowen, England

Many commentators seem to be unaware of some basic facts: the UK started going metric in 1965, 8 years before we joined the EEC because UK industry wanted to (the Commonwealth was already changing. The 1963 Weights & Measures Act outlawed the peck and bushel beyond 1968. The EU has nothing to do with the penalties imposed (and people cannot be sent to jail for using imperial.)
Chris, UK


Why has the council taken such draconian action?

George, England
People always get upset when new systems are introduced and I remember the hostility to accepting 1 coins when 1 notes were still in circulation. In this case the market trader was being bloody-minded, but he is only running a stall in a market so why has the council taken such draconian action?
George, England

Even my grandparents understand metric, and they are over 80. Surely nobody in this country is so stupid they cannot understand a system based on the number of fingers they have? The principle of having a unified system of weights and measures is an ancient one designed to protect the consumer from unscrupulous traders. Having two systems is unnecessary and confusing. We should go entirely metric (including road signs) and have done with it once and for all.
Nick C, UK

So much for "Vive la difference". But it was easier to prosecute him than real criminals
Andy, UK


If imperial was so good, why hasn't the rest of the world adopted it?

Pierre, England
You know you're up against the Euorophobes the moment the Union Jack is dragged out. Patriotism doesn't have to manifest itself through outdated ways. If imperial was so good, why hasn't the rest of the world adopted it?
Pierre, England

America's youth is already familiar with the metric system - it's the rest of the American population that is not. I suspect the same thing is true in England. Nevertheless, the man should not have been prosecuted.
Ben Feinberg, USA

How ironic! For over a thousand years, Britain was able to defend herself against the ambitions of the French and Germans. Now you have the Euro bureaucrats telling you what you have to do on something as trivial as this. Clearly this is the thin end of the wedge. Of greater concern is the question of whether English common law will be allowed to stand. Perhaps some surgery is in order to put some backbone into Blair. I can't imagine Churchill putting up with this nonsense.
Rich Vose, California, USA

It is ridiculous to try to tell people that they cannot use a system of measurement that has been used for a long time.
Peter Bolton, UK in USA


I don't think Britain is about to become all metric any time soon.

Kathryn Toms, UK and US
I agree with some of the previous comments that we should show things in both imperial and metric. However, I take issue with the idea that there are imperial and metric generations. At 27 I was taught metric at school but I am still more familiar with pounds and ounces and pints than I am with their metric equivalents. I don't think Britain is about to become all metric any time soon.
Kathryn Toms, UK and US

Boy, that's a fairly draconian law. When you come to that point you know that the law is beginning to hinder the public instead of helping them.
Carl Hickman, LA, USA


Why not let the people and the market decide what is best?

George, China
The UK, I've always been led to believe, is a politically and economically mature democracy. That being so, why not let the people and the market decide what is best? If shopkeepers are free to display their prices however they please, they will soon work out whether customers prefer to see one standard or the other (or both). The decision they make will naturally be the one that pleases most consumers, and therefore the one that benefits their own bottom line.
George, China

Good decision to prosecute him. Next offence: Jail.
Jose Fernandez, Netherlands

Has the English legal system really got nothing better to do?
Andy, England

Traitors, liberals, europhiles and cowards - they've sent this country to the dogs.
Matthew Illsley, England


Could it be that Sunderland City Council has so little to do that it can meddle in how a merchant sells his wares?

William Bartlett, USA
Could it be that Sunderland City Council has so little to do that it can meddle in how a merchant sells his wares? Shouldn't the usual market forces be allowed to choose which system of measurement they prefer? I trust SCC has already cleared up all the other problems of ALL the citizens of that fair city, otherwise this fuss's nought worth tuppence.
William Bartlett, USA

I was taught metric and find it incredibly confusing! I think in pounds and ounces, I cook using pounds and ounces. I buy my meat, fruit, vegetables and beer in imperial measures. It is what I understand - and I am only 36. This prosecution is, to my mind absolutely ridiculous. Are we the only country in the EU that enforces this petty officialdom? Oh well, will the last person out of the country please remember to switch the lights off?
Peter, Bedford, UK

Yet again political correctness looks set to destroy a person's livelihood by interfering in freedom of choice. If his customers did not want imperial measurements they would not be buying from him!
John, Australia


This has got nothing to do with politics

Nico, UK
This has got nothing to do with politics. It makes sense to use a common measuring system. The international scientific standard is metric and the whole thing is being blown out of proportion by the media.
Nico, UK

The issue between metric and imperial is purely emotional and cultural. Europhobic British people see it as yet another step towards unity. That's the price to pay for being part of the Community, for the good and the bad. You don't hear grocers and farmers complain of the generous EU subsidies, do you now?
Mauro Talevi, London, UK

Who cares?
Ben, UK

Surely there are more important issues to worry about, it all seems rather bananas to me.
Raymond Shuai, UK


Those who prefer Imperial measures should have the freedom to choose

Michael, Netherlands
Businesspeople should be free to sell the products their customers want, in the way that their customers find convenient. Any other policy is bad business. Personally I prefer metric, so I'll buy my groceries from someone who sells in metric measures - I don't need some busybody bureaucrat "protecting" me from people who want to use Imperial measures, as I can choose which shops I visit. Likewise, those who prefer Imperial measures should have the freedom to choose.
Michael, Netherlands

I have heard an estimated 96% of the world's population uses the metric system, and that Britain and America are the only countries left in the world that do otherwise. It is inevitable that Imperial will eventually die out, surely it is kinder to put it out of its misery now and convert completely to metric, rather than cause even more years of confusion. I seem to remember a similar fuss in the 1970's about the decimalisation of currency, yet people managed that.
Graham, Britain

Of course he should be prosecuted. Government has made a common sense decision to bring our weights and measures into the modern world. There is always going to be a cadre of recidivist idiots who claim the sky is falling because we're changing things. Tough luck, because the rest of us are just going to get on with metric because it's simple, elegant, universal and therefore better .
Pete Riches, UK

Every debate brings out the same old moans about human rights. We all live together in a society and have to follow the rules of that society...otherwise anarchy. Human rights don't mean the right not to live by those rules. If you want to talk human rights talk about torture victims and war crimes not weights and measures.
Mel, England

I'm 40 and was taught both systems at school. Mr Thoburn being 36 was probably taught Metric only, so who is he trying to kid!. He's just too tight to buy new scales!.
Andy Jones, UK

Frankly one of the biggest wastes of time and money I have ever seen or heard about in my life, it makes me embarrassed to be English. Would we have had this situation if our laws weren't dreamt up by some idiot in Brussels? I wish Mr Thoburn the best of luck and I would gladly contribute to any fund started to pay off the fine.
Robin Hayles, England


I can scarcely believe that this has happened here in England in this day and age

Steve Payne, UK
Of course he should not have been prosecuted. Mr Thoburn shouldn't even have been charged with anything. Like him, I can scarcely believe that this has happened here in England in this day and age. It's a sad, bad day, though of course the metric freaks, Europhiles and all those against anything traditionally British will be delighted. The rest of us, who love our country and cherish its time-honoured traditions and institutions (weights and measures included) will feel what I'm feeling now - the worry and the wonder of where it is all going to lead and who and/or what can save us from it. As far as I'm concerned, it's pretty close to despair.
Steve Payne, UK

Some people in the UK just need to grow up. As has been said this trader was only using the imperial system. As far as I am concerned he is just being bloody minded. When I buy fruit and veg I want to be able to use a system that I understand. This trader is being blatantly anti-young person. I don't object to the use of both systems simultaneously, in fact I think it is the only sensible solution to satisfy everyone. They should throw the book at this guy, we need to send a strong signal that the UK will not tolerate the exclusion of young people in the name of an outdated system of measurement.
Steven Jack, Scotland

This is a sad commentary on the degree to which the UK has lost its sovereignty to an unelected group of Eurocrats in Brussels. Many of the great legal and political freedoms born on British soil and transported to much of the rest of the world are being lost. Is increased trade with, e.g., Portugal really worth this sacrifice?
Mark W. Atwood, USA


If you can be taken to court for something as pathetic as this then this country is doomed to fail

Tom O'D, UK
We don't use kilometers per hour we use miles per hour. Should we be taken to court for it? It is pathetic that someone gets taken to court for writing weights in a different system. Admittedly I don't know what a lb is in kilograms but that's not the point, the older people of this country don't know what kilograms are in pounds. If you can be taken to court for something as pathetic as this then this country is doomed to fail, as we will all be in prison or out of money from being fined.
Tom O'D, UK

I think it's daft to keep mixing both systems - we should go completely for one or the other. Personally, I prefer metric because it's simpler. But, if a stallholder wants to make things easier for old folks by using the old imperial ways - I say good luck to him.
Andrew M, Scotland


The sooner we all convert the better.

Austin Fox, England
I remember those traders who said that they would never change to decimal currency - where are they now? The same will happen to those who don't change to the metric system. It is easier to use and understand and will surpass imperial measurements over time - EU legislation or not. The sooner we all convert the better.
Austin Fox, England

I wish politicians would spend the taxpayers' money on more fruitful projects. I prefer metric (I'm 35) but was brought up to buy things in pounds and pints. The EEC should be for trading purposes ONLY, none of this super state nonsense. Just look at what caused the rise of the Nazis (France was their biggest trading partner).
Neil Small, Scotland

The fact that a new generation has learned the metric system "instead of" the imperial one (and unconditionally endorses it) is just the proof that the British people have lost their self-determination. Indeed, the government has the proven ability to drastically change the way people lead their life, mostly against their will. It's a shame, really.
Guenael Strutt, United States


I think more retailers should revert to imperial

Owen Fish, British but living in the USA
I am 30 and was brought up with metric at school and imperial at home. Over here in the USA, imperial is the standard and so I am accustomed to gallons, quarts, pounds etc. I think it's time the British public had a referendum and pulled back some (or all) of the power of Europe. Free Market, trade-without-borders and better exports are one thing. This is something quite different. I think more retailers should revert to imperial. What will they do, prosecute them all?
Owen Fish, British but living in the USA

The idea, I thought, of an elected government in a so called democratic country is to represent the will of the majority of the People and as we the people of Great Britain have never been directly asked our view on this or similar matters how in God's name can the politicians claim they are fairly representing us? Surely these matters should be shown at prime viewing hours so we can fully understand what is going on in our country and decide for ourselves whom we want making decisions for us!
Simon Walton , England


We should laugh at the belligerent stick-in-the-muds, not prosecute them.

Khan, UK
Much as I find the Luddite resistance to change exhibited by this market trader to be trivial and absurd (there are far more important things to take a stand about), it is equally crazy that someone can be prosecuted for something like this. Metric will take over gradually - people of my own generation and younger learned the metric system at school, the supermarkets use it, and gradually it will become the norm. We should laugh at the belligerent stick-in-the-muds, not prosecute them.
Khan, UK

Absolutely it should be outlawed! This is another example of the UK desperately clinging to the last remnants of what it feels is it's 'glory' past. Only once it has left the past behind can it hope to move forward. With any luck the UK will wake up and begin to dump other historical relics too...like the underground, the Monarchy, the rail system, the electoral system, the roads etc. and replace them with more modern, reliable, value-for-money alternatives.
Kelvin Morton, Australia


It is wrong for the EU Commission to impose such penalties

George Milton, USA and Italy
Obviously it is wrong for the EU Commission to impose such penalties. The EU was created to serve a particular role and it is desperately trying to become the ruler, although un-elected, of its member states. What purpose is served by going beyond the common market?
George Milton, USA and Italy

Europe is restricting basic individual rights.
Convinced, USA

In the 60s I was an enthusiastic supporter of Britain's integration with Europe. I thought that we would gain the benefit of all our cultures. The next thing I knew, British farmers were told what they could and could not grow and sell and our choice of fruits and animals was being restricted. Now this latest stupidity about weights and measures. If people don't like the measures used, they can, and should, buy elsewhere. Markets allow people to make their own choices; why not simply let them do so? Those of us who supported European union need our heads examined.
Joshua Jones, Australia

A metre is based on a very, very small fraction of the distance that white light travels in a vacuum in a second, whilst a yard is based on the distance from your nose to your outstretched hand. Now which is easier to comprehend?
Alan Ball, New Zealand


Only in the small minded UK would this happen.

Alan, England
Only in the small minded UK would this happen. This is a metric world - the last Mars probe failed because some scientists used imperial instead of metric - they have now learnt their lesson. Is this 2001 or 1901? Everything I buy has BOTH grammes and ounces on it - why couldn't the retailer just have used both depending on which his customers requested? I think the term 'luddite' is applicable.
Alan, England

I find it sickening that under this penal system you can kill someone whilst drunk in your car and get little more than a fine, yet if you sell fruit by the pound you can go to prison for it. Where will this penal madness end?
Stuart Ford, UK

It is amazing that while third world countries successfully converted to the metric system quite some time ago, the Americans and the British still talk in terms of pounds and miles. It makes perfect sense to abandon the imperial system in favour of the metric system as the later is by far more user friendly. However, the switch over should be gradual, with a transitional period during which both the systems are used side by side. Arshad Rehan, USA


What ever happened to consumer choice?

Martin Wragg, UK
How utterly pathetic and insidious. The point is not which system is better, nor which is right or which is wrong. Without doubt the metric system is easier and more logical. But what ever happened to consumer choice? If a store were unable to stay in business because customers demanded metric then they would change, the basic law of consumer demand. Let consumers decide which they prefer, let each store decide which is best for their business. That's called a free market.
Martin Wragg, UK

This isn't about whether metric or imperial units are superior. It's about freedom. It's about whether or not, on principle, a man should receive a criminal record just for selling to customers in units that were familiar with, understood and felt happy with. Did he defraud anyone? Did he pose a danger? The commonsensical, and moral answer is no. If you disagree, why should someone not be arrested simply for wearing the wrong colour shirt?
Henry Case, UK

I don't care what system of weights and measures greengrocers employ so long as they learn how to use apostrophes correctly! Carrot's, potatoe's, tomatoe's - I ask you!
Matthew Salter, UK


Metric is easier for calculations - FACT!

Paul S, UK
Help, the Europeans are coming to take us over! Please join the 21st century and stop behaving like xenophobic morons over every European idea. Metric is easier for calculations - FACT! I've got a university degree but am still far happier working in factors of 10 rather than 12 or whatever this outdated system uses. The Aussies picked up the system very quickly so it can't be too difficult (I'm 1/2 Aussie so can get away with saying this). It's just an excuse for our out of date ideals about how the British Empire is best and all Europeans are bad.
Paul S, UK

I am ashamed of the fact that I live in the same City as the Metric Moron. Since the 1970s, metric has been taught in our schools, so it makes sense for a wholesale switch to metric. Also, I do not wish to be associated with Mr Thoburn's campaign, which is backed by a far right wing alliance, including the UKIP and the Freedom Association.
Jonathan Pringle, Sunderland, England

Imperial measures have not been outlawed! This is a case of a pig-headed shopkeeper who refused to show the metric equivalents.
KP, UK

Britain has done the right thing by convicting the fruit merchant as per the current trading rules. But what surprises me is why on earth measurements like pounds and ounces are still prevalent in a modern society like Britain's. Most advanced nations and even Third World countries have switched over to kilos and grammes long ago. Why is the UK still allowing the use of pounds and ounces?
Albert Devakaram, India


It is a myth that the continent entirely uses metric

Ian Moseley, Germany
Pounds and ounces are still referred to in parts of Holland and Germany today so why not in the UK as well? For example if you go to the market in Germany you would never ask for 250g of mushrooms, you'd ask for half a pound. We are about to go into asparagus season here and that is also sold only in pounds by tradition. So it is a myth that the continent entirely uses metric. After all the English system is actually the Anglo-Saxon system which originated in northern Germany.
Ian Moseley, Germany

I feel quite comfortable with both metric and imperial units. But I don't feel the need to report someone to the police if I see them using a tape measure with the "wrong" units. For God's sake, how can you accept this sort of fascism just because the European Commission order you to?
Henry Case, UK

So if we're supposed to use metric units, why are British road signs, speed limits, car speedometers etc still in imperial? Just think what it would cost to convert those!
Paul, Isle of Man


Mr Thoburn has my total support and sympathy.

John Ayre, UK
No way should we be bowing down to Europe. This country has fought for decades to maintain our independence and Blair with his "cronies" is much to happy to be ruled by European law. Europe should have a common trading platform - its original idea - but the vast majority of the British people want to have nothing to do with European politics and European politicians. Blair knows that he will lose the fight if he ever decides to have a referendum. Mr Thoburn has my total support and sympathy.
John Ayre, UK

Where exactly is the 'metric generation' that some respondents have talked about? I'm 28 and was at school between 1977 and 1989. I presume that I'm supposed to be one of the younger people educated wholly in metric. That's not how I remember it---as I recall, everything we ever did measurement-wise (apart from in the obvious subjects such as the sciences) was in imperial---the system that I was taught and used (and use) at home. The idea of a 'metric generation' in the UK strikes me as a bit of selective memory, not to say propaganda.
Steve Payne, UK

Nice to see that on the day a trial is dismissed because of doubts over impartiality when the aim is to find out if people a guilty of beating another person to a pulp, that the courts stick to the really important matters - like giving a GUILTY sentence for selling a pound of bananas.
Jamie Walker, UK

Timothy Stokes, the fact that the kilogram is a unit of mass makes it better for weighting out bananas, otherwise the price of bananas would depend on local gravity or whether the moon was overhead.
Mark, UK

What a waste of time, money and common sense! Yes, of course we should be buying and selling in metric. But was it worth prosecuting him for what, after all, is simply an eccentricity? If his customers didn't like being served in imperial measures, then they could have taken their custom elsewhere. Surely there are far more serious crimes in this country to attend to than wasting the taxpayers' money on this! Or do I detect the hand of the Nanny State and the Politically Correct at work yet again!
Kathy, Wales


Sorry Mr Thoburn, I'm generally a Euro-sceptic, but I'm with the courts on this one

CNS, Durham, England
Sorry Mr Thoburn, I'm generally a Euro-sceptic, but I'm with the courts on this one. It's not the position of the courts to ask, "Who is right, the defendant or the law?" - it's to ask, "Should the defendant be allowed to break the law and get away with it?" It would have been a lot easier to have just given the prices in both imperial and metric; it would have kept the customers happy and I don't expect anyone would have bothered with a court case over that.
CNS, Durham, England

I have spent the last twenty years studying physics and engineering which involved taking measurements. My conclusion is that the metric system is far superior to the imperial one. All measurements in the UK ought to employ metric units as soon as possible. Quoting miles per gallon for cars when you buy petrol in litres makes no sense. Metrication does not means that Britain has to be any more involved politically with Europe - these are separate issues.
Dr Lyndon Smith, UK

There are good reasons for standardising on weights and measures in commerce. Getting attached to a unit of measurement to the point where you're willing to be prosecuted rather than even display the officially sanctioned ones is pointless. The trader in question needs to grow up.
Chris Brown, UK

Surely there are more important matters for the courts to attend to!
Max, UK


People should be allowed to use whatever measurement system they feel like

Shantanu Thakur, USA
People should be allowed to use whatever measurement system they feel like. What right does the Government have to pass silly and pointless laws like this?
Shantanu Thakur, USA

Unbelievably! At times like this I am ashamed of my country .... get out of Europe NOW!
Margaret, Canada

I wonder what the European Court of Human Rights would say about this? If I want to sell bananas in kilogrammes, pounds, or a system I've made up then it's my basic human right to do so. It's ridiculous.
David Janes, UK

I am English but now live in Canada where the official system is metric but everything is displayed in metric and imperial, no problem. Why must our British politicians be such boneheads? They make me sick to the stomach. We were the greatest on earth, now we are a laughing stock.
Mark Smith, Canada

When in Europe I will spend the euro and buy a kilo of apples, but when in the UK I would like to buy a pound of apples with a pound coin. Tony, take note!
D. Attwell, UK


Eventually imperial will fall by the wayside

Andrew, USA/ UK
Antiquated measurements are fine as long as those who use them know what the corresponding amount is supposed to be. In the States they have no idea what a stone is yet they measure in pounds. Their pint is 4 fluid ounces less and nobody has a concept of what a centimetre is (or how to spell it) yet they are one of the world's superpowers. In my view there should be both metric and imperial for us to translate from one to the other. Eventually imperial will fall by the wayside but it should dissolve naturally not forcefully.
Andrew, USA/ UK

Where is the logic in convicting an individual for failing to display both metric and imperial units of weight when the Government gets away with allowing road signs in miles and not kilometres and miles? Someone help me with that please.
Rodney, UK

I'm 46, brought up in Wolverhampton and haven't a clue about imperial measures. I was taught metric measures from the age of 11.
Pete B, UK


I look at this in complete amazement

Michael Barton, Canada
I look at this in complete amazement. I left England in 1970 when the metric system was well under way. When I was working in London in 1966, I was producing architectural drawings in metric, (that's 35 years ago). In 1975 I spoke to some young university graduates in England, and they said that the imperial system was completely unknown to them. This was 26 years ago!! Where in the world have these people been? I just can't imagine!
Michael Barton, Canada

In answer to the comment "Outrageous decision. We should be allowed to display both!" - we are. Metric weights are compulsory - but it is still possible to show other measures. Metric measures have been permitted weights since 1897. The decision to move to from imperial to metric measures was made in 1963 several years before joining the EU. The Metrication Board was set up in 1968. Almost everyone under the age of 40 learnt metric measures in school. In reference to the point about Spanish weights and measures, when Spanish/ Austrians/ Germans etc refer to the 'pound' they are referring to the 'metric pound' of 500g.
Martin Tod, UK

Why are you British always so stubborn? Isn't the metric system far easier?
Franz Pichler, Italy (now UK)

I notice a rather interesting commonality to several of the responses; that the English identity is firmly associated with what unit we weigh our goods in. Surely no more proof is needed to support Napoleon's comment that we are a "nation of shopkeepers".
John, UK


He simply sold what he was asked for

Peter Ritchie, England
I believe that Mr Thoburn did not do anything illegal as he simply sold what was asked for. He could just as easily have weighed the same in kilos on his other scales. Tax payers money should never be wasted by the council in this manner as a means to promote Europe.
Peter Ritchie, England

The open market where I buy my fruit and veg sells by the pound. I can use either metric or imperial, but if people are desperate for one system or the other, they should choose their shop accordingly. Is Britain the only country in the EU that takes these regulations seriously?
Clive Mitchell, UK


Strictly speaking pounds and kilos are not interchangeable

Timothy Stokes, England
The problem I have with the kilogram is that it is a unit of mass, not weight. So strictly speaking pounds and kilos are not interchangeable. The EU should insist on using the Newton, as this is the SI unit of weight. Better still, they could just mind their own business and leave shopkeepers to sell their produce in whatever units the majority of their customers are happier with.
Timothy Stokes, England

Why such a fuss over what to call a measurement? Most of the leading countries in the world are metric, and changing to metric is about moving forward into the modern world. It is about time the British pulled their heads out of the sand and realised the rest of the world is moving forward and they are going to be left pulling up at the rear if they don't move with it.
Wendy, NZ

The argument is not which system to use, it is the fact that faceless dictators in Europe are able to enforce such useless and costly laws upon us. This case has proved that in Europe, law is more important than rights and justice and that our courts are toothless against the power of Brussels.
Ian Thomas, England

When will this Council take McDonald's to court, to order them to change the name 'Quarter Pounder' to 'Royal with Cheese'?
Mark, UK


The customer should be allowed to buy in whichever measure he or she is accustomed to

Hazel, UK
As long as both imperial and metric weight scales are shown with comparative prices and the weighing scales are correctly calibrated to weigh in both, the customer should be allowed to buy in whichever measure he or she is accustomed to.
Hazel, UK

This was just a petulant, euro sceptic stunt, supported by right wing tabloids and little Englanders.
Andrew Cover, UK

I think we should abolish both Imperial and Metric systems and adopt a Bruce Forsythe-style "higher", "lower" mechanism.
Gus McGhee, Scotland

What's the point in debating this? In the UK we no longer have control over our own affairs. All our politicians and officials want to do is please their masters in Brussels, and God help anyone who gets in their way.
Peter, UK


If people don't like pounds and ounces, they should shop somewhere else

Tim, USA
Taken to court? You have got to be kidding me. If people don't like pounds and ounces, they should shop somewhere else. If they do like pounds and ounces then what's the poor fella doing in court?
Tim, USA

The whole thing is a complete mess. Cars are still quoted as doing x mpg. What the hell is mpg if you can only buy litres of fuel?
brian fletcher, uk

First you lose the right to defend your person and property with arms. Then you lose the freedom to buy and sell in a weight system of your choice. Then you lose the freedom of speech. And then you live as a slave to a dictator state. It seems to me it's time for Britons of all heritages to say "enough is enough" and send the Euro Fascists packing!
Richard Schmitz, Alaska, USA

Just before everyone starts bashing the EU, I'd like to point out that the UK chose to go metric back in 1962! Well before we joined the then EEC in 1973. The only reason the market trader was taken to court was that he wouldn't show both metric and imperial weights, which sounds to me like simple bloody-mindedness. The fact that the UKIP were involved shows it was a publicity stunt in my opinion.
Alexander Lawrence, UK


This whole incident has caused both amusement and amazement over here in the US

Ross Sharp, USA
As a UK national who now lives in the USA, I can truthfully state that this whole incident has caused both amusement and amazement over here in the US. Some US citizens are amused that Sunderland City Council would waste time on this issue, whilst others are amazed that the UK has allowed control of it's legal system be handed over to, 'foreigners'.
Ross Sharp, USA

What some of the people who've written in seem to miss is that it's NOT illegal to quote imperial measures - just illegal not to display their metric equivalent.
Phil Carney, London, England

In an ideal world, we would use only metric measurements, but, in this transitional period, I have no problem with goods being sold in both imperial and metric measurements, as long as the metric versions are given due prominence.
Kenneth MacArthur, Scotland

Why bother outlawing imperial measurements? They do no harm to anyone.
Matt S, Germany

Keep both, invent a new one...But please, be careful when sending a probe to Mars.
George, USA


People are damn lucky they have the luxury to complain over something so trivial.

Chris Cormier, Canada
How much of a hardship can it be to cope to upgrading to metric measurements? If there are inherent problems in the metric system, as there were in the imperial system, maybe a reform would be necessary, but all I see here is lazy people whining that they have to learn (only once in their lives) a new system for measuring. People are damn lucky they have the luxury to complain over something so trivial.
Chris Cormier, Canada

Why not display both measurements? The old diehards will be happy and the new-age people will be happy as well.
Mike Y, Boston, USA

It is the sheer pettiness and waste of public money that gets me. There is no problem except the lunatic adherence to what is of little or no consequence. It causes ordinary people to despise the law when it is put to such trivial, not to say mindless uses. As has been said already such small mindedness detracts from the larger issues on which we should be concentrating
Graham Bindon, Wales


Prosecuting this man is senseless when there are delinquents and many other worthy criminals at large

Jack D, UK
I think prosecuting this man is senseless when there are delinquents and many other worthy criminals at large. I think having imperial and metric running in tandem is perfectly acceptable and the eventually the older one probably will disappear without the need to force it.
Jack D, UK

This ruling is absurd and outrageous. It was a test case to see whether European or British law was paramount and whether our ancient system/convention that one parliament cannot bind its successor is still relevant. Our democratically elected parliament is powerless against the unelected commission. Not only is this ruling unconstitutional and undemocratic but it infringes our civil liberties and goes against common sense. A trader should be free to trade in whatever measure he chooses. It is up to the customer to decide whether or not to buy the goods not some judge or unelected political elite.
James Wild, UK

Our move towards a sensible measuring system predates our entry into the EU. It was first recommended by a Parliamentary Committee in the 19th Century. In any case there is nothing to stop retailers displaying both systems. Go into any supermarket and see.
Wilfrid Miles, UK

I think that merchants should be allowed to use the measurements they want; customers by their decisions to buy or not should determine the system to be used. Further, why should Britain submit to the many rules of the EU which go against its traditions and people? I am not British so I cannot say, but I wonder why Britain is continuing integration to the EU when it is counter to what is British?
Jonathan Hall, USA


I notice that not many people are demanding to go back to pounds, shillings and pence anymore!

Malcolm Franke, England
I don't know the old imperial system, and object to neanderthals imposing their values on those of us educated in the metric measurements. Show BOTH measures if you wish, but don't hold the rest of us back. We are a cosmopolitan global society and benefit greatly from it. I notice that not many people are demanding to go back to pounds, shillings and pence anymore!
Malcolm Franke, England

Canada has been metric for decades, but we still see lbs and kgs, they are both marked.
Gavin Reedman, Canada

This is yet another example of the ludicrous kind of regulations emanating from the Brussels machine, and their subsequent enforcement by a group of puritanical officials who can't be bothered to find a decent job. Thousands of new EU regulations are simply waved through into Britain every year. Many of these rules are hindering trade and profits rather than creating a free and flexible market.
Jonathan Castro, UK


Attempting to outlaw imperial measurements really is an act of cultural vandalism

Alastair Knight, United Kingdom
Attempting to outlaw imperial measurements really is an act of cultural vandalism. Just as many countries have more than one national language, we should be free to use imperial or metric weights. Conversion tables can always be displayed as a translation for those not familiar with one system or the other.
Alastair Knight, United Kingdom

What is next? Will the Royal Shakespeare Company have to start ordering Shylock to cut a kilogram of flesh?
Matt Simon, USA

I am currently at high school, and all the measurements we are told to use are in metric. The only imperial measures taught in schools are converting them to metric! If kids want to use them, shops must be able to show us and use the imperial measures. I don't want to be asking for .568 litres of lager or 2267 grams of beef when I'm older.
Ant (15), Merseyside, UK

I wonder how long it'll be before pub landlords start being prosecuted for refusing to sell half-litres of beer? Or milkmen for selling milk? The weights and measures regulations were originally put in place to protect the consumer from unscrupulous shopkeepers. Now it seems that these shopkeepers are being given carte blanche to rip off any customers who don't understand metric measures.
Peter H, UK

Call me one of the abandoned youth of America. I was taught ONLY the metric system in school and at the age of 23, I still don't know all of the imperial units nor care to. I just wish the rest of the country (USA) would finally switch over. It shouldn't take a century to convert a simple set of measurements.
Sean, Florida, USA


I don't believe the British public is any less able to cope with the system than those in other countries which have converted.

John Tippler, England
I am very fond of imperial measurements, but now, aged over 70, I think it's sensible to come into line with the metric system. It is a perfectly practical system, which long before my childhood was the standard for scientific work in this country. I don't believe the British public is any less able to cope with the system than those in other countries which have converted.
John Tippler, England

The need for universal measurements can surely not be outlined any clearer than by the failure of the 1999 Mars missions by Nasa where scientists confused imperial and metric measurements wasting millions of dollars in taxpayers money.
Christian Holness, UK


This is just another attempt to forcibly take away British identity

Marty Jackson, USA
Metric fascism disturbs me greatly. We here in the USA get along just fine maintaining the traditional British Imperial System of measurements. Where is the respect for different cultures and ways of life? Why does everyone and everything have to be the same? This is just another attempt to forcibly take away British identity and make you all good little Euro robots. British people need to fight this. You weren't born French or German, why should you have to live like one?
Marty Jackson, USA

So long as people are not being ripped off then I don't see whether it matters if things are sold in metric or imperial measures.
Andrew McGrail, UK

The imposition of metrication by the EU upon the English people is yet another example of the increasingly dictatorial tendency of the European Commission. The EU persistently rides roughshod over the wishes of entire nations and denies their legitimate national governments the right either to debate or to legislate. Like every empire before it the EU will come to an end. That is a certainty.
Jonathan Rogers, The English Region of the European Empire

The trader was prosecuted because he refused to use what has been agreed as the standard units for weights and measures. These rules are in place to allow consumers to be better informed about what they are buying. How can you run a system where individual traders decide on their own measurement units? Consumers would be completely confused! I hope that the authorities take a tough line on all future traders who flout the law.
Simon Watkins, Wales, UK

England's people really need to decide what is important here - notions of a once almighty empire with its past mechanisms and rituals or integration into one of the most dynamic markets in the world.
Barry Connolly, San Francisco, USA


When will British governments stop giving to and instead start taking from Europope?

Andy, England
Once again we are expected to change our way of life in order to make things easier for everybody else. When will British governments stop giving to and instead start taking from Europe?
Andy, England

Of course this is the right decision. He used illegal scales, and continued to use them after being warned. This country has been converting to metric for 36 years and counting. Enough already - lets get the job done and work in one measurement system. There is so much more about being British that is worth defending than an archaic, difficult to use measurement system that 95% of the rest of the world no longer uses.
Jeff Gross, UK

Every other greengrocer and supermarket in the country display their produce in both imperial and metric. That's all he had to do. He was deliberately being bloody-minded just to make a small point and pander to the right wing press.
Rob, UK

Good decision... Now if you guys would please drive on the RIGHT side as well....
Jose Fernandez, Netherlands

How can someone be prosecuted for selling bananas by the pound, when it's legal to sell beer by the pint?
Simon Mosley, UK

So long as your scales are accurate it's okay. At first I was a little phased at trying to divide 28.35g into 8 lots of 3.54375g, but if the law says you have to trade metrically - so be it.
Paul, UK


This goes to the heart of whether or not we live in a democracy

Geoffrey Sturdy, UK
This is not about a pound of Bananas - the principle at stake is whether or not an act of the UK parliament can be overturned by an EU directive. Metrication has never been debated and no party has ever stood on a platform of metrication - this goes to the heart of whether or not we live in a democracy.
Geoffrey Sturdy, UK

I've been living in USA for about three years. Here, both systems are used. Yet one has to admit that people don't really understand "metric". I personally hate all these strange 'alien' pounds and pints. Isn't SI system much easier? I think that Europe ought to have one common measurement system, to avoid such incidents like the crashing of US space probe, which happened due to mixing the two standards. Also, it would be more convenient for the tourists who wouldn't have to rack their brains.
Filip F, Poland (currently USA)

Apparently in the UK, conformity trumps freedom.
Stephen Kenney, USA

Decimal currency was supposedly introduced for convenience, so when the majority of customers in a certain area find decimals less convenient than the old system, it is only being done to help people. Besides, it could serve as a valuable history lesson to discover what the old system was really like.
Emma Snobble, Australia


Choose one or the other and then IMPLEMENT it

Christopher Laird, Japan
Freedom to choose, although a wonderful ideal, means that the education system would suffer by having to cater for both systems. I learned the metric system in school, but lived in a society that still heavily used the imperial system. As a consequence, I never had a complete understanding or feel for either. Now that I live in a completely metric society, life is easier.
Choose one or the other and then IMPLEMENT it. Forget this phasing in over decades, it really doesn't help at all.
Christopher Laird, Japan

In Australia we only display metric weights and measures. And yes, we too were brought up on the imperial system. It may have taken time and been a little confusing at first but it has paid off in the long run as now everybody is used to the metric system irrelevant of what system was taught in school.
Heather Taferner, Australia

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