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Lord Howell: My Lords, is the Minister aware that people who use mobile telephones in railway carriages are a much greater nuisance than smokers? Will he kindly make representations to the authorities that mobile telephone users and smokers should be confined to one carriage in our trains?

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, the noble Lord's views certainly seem to have support within your Lordships' House. I shall ensure that his comments are passed on to British Rail.

Lord Beloff: My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister agree that, although it might have been desirable to consult the railway users' body, the fact is that those like myself, whose presence in your Lordships' House is made possible in reasonable health by the banning of smoking on the Brighton line, are perfectly happy with the outcome of what has been done?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, of course we are all very pleased that my noble friend is able to attend your Lordships' House and make such interventions. It is clear that there is a wide body of opinion that supports the banning of smoking on those trains.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the use of mobile telephones in one carriage as suggested by my noble friend, together with a carriage reserved for smokers, would be an excellent idea because people would be totally suffused by the smoke and perhaps, therefore, debarred from using their mobile telephones? However, to return to the Question which was not really about smoking, does the Minister further agree that the record of the consultative committees has been commendable? It has been

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commendable in trying to save the Fort William Motorail and sleeper services; commendable in underlining the gross underinvestment in the railways that has taken place over the past few years; commendable in pointing out the shortcomings of government undertakings to consult, which have in fact drifted into the sand in too many instances; and commendable also in pointing out the overweening bureaucracy that privatisation has already meant.

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord that the rail users' consultative committees have done a valuable job in protecting the interests of passengers. However, I do not agree with anything else said by the noble Lord.

Lord Harris of High Cross: My Lords, perhaps I may return to the Question. The Minister said that it was for the rail operators alone to decide such matters. However, the rail regulator, Mr. John Swift, said that he was concerned at the failure of British Rail to consult the consultative committee, which he described as his "ears and eyes". Can the Minister say—apart from party political observations—how we are to get people of substance to serve on consultative committees if they are bypassed in such a way by these large organisations?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, it is important that good quality people are able to serve on such committees and that they should be consulted in the proper way. However, I know that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, is especially concerned about the issue of smoking on that particular line. The arguments have been very thoroughly rehearsed and there does seem to be a large body of opinion from people who actually use that line and who support the banning of smoking on those services. As I said, it is ultimately a matter for the operator to decide.

Metric Units: Status

3.3 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In how many member states of the European Union it is a criminal offence to sell goods other than in metric units.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie): My Lords, the Government understand that in all other member states metric units are the only lawful units of measurement, although the Government do not know whether other member states treat a failure to use metric units as a criminal offence.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, is my noble and learned friend aware that in France they sell plumbers' pipes in inches and that in Germany floppy discs are sold in inches? I believe that that will be a criminal offence in England after 1st October. Have we actually gone further in the implementation of the European Community directive on metrication than the directive itself actually specifies, especially bearing in mind that when metrication was first introduced into this county

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in 1968, the then President of the Board of Trade, the noble Lord, Lord Jay, promised that it would never be made compulsory?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, I do not believe that we have over-implemented the directive. The particular example used by my noble friend of the three-and-a-half inch floppy disc is incorrect. Indeed, it is not a product which is required by law to be sold by weight, volume, length, area or capacity measure. Accordingly, there is no obligation under our law to use metric units. After all, one does not go into a shop and ask for a two-and-a-half or a three-and-a-half inch floppy disc. One asks for a floppy disc.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, after using our own measurements for hundreds of years, why should British people, British businessmen, British retailers and market people suddenly find themselves criminalised because they are no longer allowed to sell in pounds and ounces, which British people are used to? Why on earth should people not be able to continue to trade in pounds, ounces, litres and goodness knows what else—indeed, anything that people understand and are willing freely to trade in—rather than be subject to fines and imprisonment if they do not comply?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, the decision that the United Kingdom should adopt metric units as the primary system of measurement was taken as far back as 1965. It was taken in response to active lobbying from business and industrial interests. Perhaps I may point out to the noble Lord that it is the finest and oldest of English traditions going back as far as Magna Carta that we should have uniform systems of measurement and that there have always been criminal sanctions attached; indeed, medieval mercantile courts relied on flogging and pillorying to support them.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, why did not my noble and learned friend include the ell, the rod, the pole and the perch?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, I guess probably because not very many people in your Lordships' House or elsewhere would be able to say what those units of measurement were. It is clearly of advantage that we should have a standard unit of measurement. After all, Queen Victoria had 16 years to sit on her throne when we first signed up to the metric convention.

Lord Renton: My Lords, are we to abandon the nautical mile? Further, will we not be allowed to say in future that a cricket pitch should be 22 yards long?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, one does not sell cricket pitches by the yard. Although there are some that might be sold at present, they are not sold in that fashion. However, with reference to the specific question put by my noble friend, perhaps I may point out that the nautical mile and the knot are to be retained. So far as concerns aviation matters and aircraft heights, we shall continue to use the foot.

Lord Peston: My Lords, it would not be bad for England's bowlers—or, indeed, for England's batsmen—if the pitch were at least 22 metres. However,

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that is by the way. Does not the opposition to such implementation totally underestimate the young people in our country who are the ones we are doing this for? Is it not right that they are now taught in metric measures in school and that they have not the slightest difficulty coping with them? In the future, when they occupy the Benches of your Lordships' House, they will wonder what we old people were worrying about at this time.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right. Since 1974, primary schools have been teaching in metric units. I certainly find that my 14 year-old daughter has great difficulty understanding what an inch is now. However, we should not exaggerate the changes that have been made. From 1st January of this year we moved to the selling of alcohol—whisky and spirits—in bars by metric units. From the personal research I have been carrying out in the Bishops' Bar, your Lordships seem to have accommodated that change admirably.


3.8 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, at a convenient moment after 4.30 p.m. my noble friend Lady Chalker of Wallasey will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is to be made in another place on Srebrenica.

Birmingham Assay Office Bill

Read a third time, and passed, and returned to the Commons with an amendment.

Landlord and Tenant (Covenants) Bill

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to acquaint the House that they, having been informed of the purport of the Landlord and Tenant (Covenants) Bill, have consented to place their perogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

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