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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 May 2007, 10:04 GMT 11:04 UK
Group claims EU imperial victory
Bananas with imperial and metric measurements
Food can show imperial and metric measurements
Campaigners have hailed a decision to allow traders to continue using pounds and ounces as a "monumental victory".

The move to shelve EU plans to enforce metrication by 2009 comes after a long campaign by pro-imperial groups, including the Metric Martyrs.

The European industry commissioner has ruled that imperial weights and measures can be displayed indefinitely alongside metric measurements.

Pro-metric campaigners said keeping the dual labelling system was "crazy".

Lobbying

Tory industry spokesman, Giles Chichester, said he had EU confirmation that the marking of goods using both metric and imperial systems could "continue indefinitely".

Tory MEP Mr Chichester said he had received the confirmation from the European Commission's Industry Commissioner Gunther Verheugen.

I just hope there won't be any more need for Metric Martyrs and that the government will avoid forcing metrication down the public's throat
Tory industry spokesman Giles Chichester

Mr Chichester said following lobbying by the Tories, the commissioner agreed it was good for British and European industry to keep imperial measurements as it would make it easier for firms to sell to the US, where such measures are used.

"After saving the crown on the British pint, I am happy the Conservatives have persuaded the Commission that it is good not only for international business but for the British people that traditional measurements are kept," he said.

"I just hope there won't be any more need for Metric Martyrs and that the government will avoid forcing metrication down the public's throat."

A spokeswoman for Mr Verheugen said during recent consultation, respondents successfully made the case to be allowed to use imperial measures alongside metric beyond 2009.

Currently, all loose goods sold with reference to units of quantity have to be weighed and sold using the metric system. However, imperial measurements may also be displayed as "supplementary indications" - as a second label.

Under the scrapped plans, this would have become illegal from 1 January, 2010.

'Indefinite extension'

Commissioner Verheugen was expected to put the amendment allowing dual labelling indefinitely forward to colleagues later this year, his spokeswoman added.

"His intention is to propose that in simple terms the use of supplementary indications would be granted an indefinite extension," she said.

Metric Martyrs campaign director, Neil Herron a former fishmonger, said it was a "monumental victory" for the group and all its supporters.

We are trying to put ourselves forward as a modern country putting our imperial past in perspective, like slavery, and here we are glorifying one element of it
Roz Denny, UK Metric Association

"It has been people power that has forced the European Commission and the government to abandon the enforced metrication programme," he said.

He told the Radio 4's Today programme the scrapped proposal had been "absurd".

"It was just imposed on people with threats of criminal sanctions," he said. "It was never, ever put in a political manifesto and never, ever gained the consent of the British public."

Imperial past

But Roz Denny, spokeswoman for the UK Metric Association, said maintaining the current system was "a nonsense" and that Britain should not be seen as "a heritage theme park" that did not change.

"We are now going to have this crazy double measurement system forever," she said.

She went on: "We are trying to put ourselves forward as a modern country putting our imperial past in perspective, like slavery, and here we are glorifying one element of it."

A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry said the European Commission had not yet formally announced its decision on imperial measures.

But he added that the government had "been in support of dual labelling."

The Metric Martyrs have also called for a posthumous pardon for Steven Thoburn, a Sunderland greengrocer who was prosecuted for having imperial-only weighing scales.

The Metric Martyrs campaign was set up to highlight the case of Mr Thoburn who died aged 39 in March 2004.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The man who began the Metric Martyrs campaign



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