The case for completing the changeover to the international metric system

The UK Metric Association (UKMA) advocates the earliest practicable completion of the programme of changeover to the metric system. By clicking on the links on this page, you can read a summary of the powerful arguments for finally phasing out obsolete imperial measures and becoming fully metric - instead of carrying on with the the current "two systems" muddle.

Summary of the case

Every country needs a system of weights and measures which everybody understands and uses. This is necessary for consumer protection, designing buildings, specifying engineering components, prescribing medicines, signposting distances, fixing speed limits, and forecasting the weather. In all these instances, clarity and precision are essential. Failure to communicate clearly can result in mistakes, waste, accidents and incomprehension. Just as clarity of verbal communication requires that everybody understands and uses the same language, so communication about dimensions and quantities requires that everybody uses the same units of measurement.

Unfortunately, the UK has a muddle of two systems: litres for petrol and fizzy drinks, pints for beer and milk, metres and kilometres for athletics, miles per gallon for cars, the metric system for school, and yet, all too often, still pounds and ounces in the market. We have got into this mess because the Government decided in 1965 (long before we entered the Common Market) that we should go metric within 10 years - and then failed to carry it through.

We clearly need to standardise on one single system. Nobody would seriously argue that Britain could revert to exclusive use of imperial measurements. We must therefore go forward and fully adopt the International System of Units (SI - the metric system), which is used by 94% of the world's population, including all the Commonwealth.

There are other advantages of going metric. It is a proper system in which units are inter-related; it is easy to learn and to use because it is mainly decimal; it is adaptable to all situations: the same units can be used in both cookery and scientific research.

Finally, we make recommendations for specific policy areas, such as retailing, advertising, road signs, education, weather reports, land and property.

The time has come for the Government to finish the job which was started in 1965 and to make Britain a fully metric country.

For responses to counter-arguments, see this link.

Our campaign

The campaign is directed particularly at the Government, which has the primary responsibility for managing the change, but also at other official bodies, the media and the general public.

We set out some principles to be followed in completing the changeover, deal with the scares about civil liberty and free speech, and refute the argument that the costs of completion would not be justified.

Resistance to change

UKMA acknowledges that there is opposition to change but believes that this opposition is shallow and results from a Government failure to explain the reasons for the change and the benefits which it would bring. As a result, populist politicians and tabloid newspapers have been able to exploit public misunderstanding.

How you can make a difference

Britain's failure to complete its changeover to the metric system hurts. It affects our international competitiveness, leads to mistakes, undermines consumer protection, compromises safety and wastes the education of children throughout the UK.

You can make a difference with practical steps. As little as 5 minutes (or even better 30 minutes) of your time could help.