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Thursday, 3 February, 2000, 18:50 GMT
Battle looming over butcher's pound

You can ask for 1lb of sausages, but the butcher must weigh you 454g


An Essex butcher is hoping to become Britain's first trader to face prosecution for refusing to go metric.

Weight comparisons
50g = nearly 2oz
100g = nearly 4oz
454g = 1lb
900g = nearly 2lb
Dave Stevens, 54, who runs Mandy's Chop Shop in Leigh-on-Sea, says he will not be "bullied" into changing his scales or his display notices.

Mr Stevens told BBC News Online: "They can fine me as much as they like, I won't pay.

"And they can sling me in jail and throw away the key, but I'll go straight back to pounds and ounces when I get out."

He said the metrication of Britain was the first step towards making Europe a federal state, and that his defiance was "leading the imperial revolution of Great Britain".

Shopping and the law
Prices in imperial may be displayed alongside prices in metric
Shoppers may still ask for goods in imperial
Shopkeepers must measure goods in metric
"Napolean said England is a nation of shopkeepers, well the shopkeepers are revolting," he said.

Since 1 January all UK shops and market stalls have been obliged by law to go metric - or face fines of up to 7,000.

Trading standards officers say 90% complied "with good grace", although campaigners claim "thousands" of Britain's small traders remain defiant.

Mr Stevens received an infringement notice 28 days ago, giving him one month to change to metric. He risks being taken to court and the confiscation of his scales.

Three grounds for prosecuting shopkeepers
For using imperial measurements
For using a weighing machine calibrated in imperial only
For displaying prices in imperial only
Many supporters of the imperial system want Mr Stevens to be prosecuted, so they can test the legality of compulsory metrication.

Vivian Linacre of the British Weights and Measures Association, which campaigns for the retention of what he calls "customary" measurements, says there are "several distinct grounds" on which the new regulations are illegal.

One of those, according to barrister Michael Shrimpton, is that the regulations have never been debated in Parliament. Therefore, they can only amend - not substantially overturn - the Weights and Measures Act 1985.

These signs are now illegal
Southend Council admit there is confusion over the issue.

"There are clearly a number of complex issues surrounding metrication," it said in a statement.

Though unwilling to comment on individual cases, but the council has indicated that no action against Mr Stevens is imminent.

"No further action will be taken against any traders who may be contravening the law until the matter in general has been considered by councillors".

It added that it would deal with the question in a "professional and considered manner".

"The council will not be used as a pawn in a political propaganda campaign," it said.



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See also:
31 Dec 99 |  UK
Measure for measure
16 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Tories 'save' the other pound
30 Jun 99 |  UK
In praise of the pound (lb)?

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