Many readers of Independence will already be aware of UKIP's anti-metrication campaign, in which we have linked up closely with Vivian Linacre and colleagues in the British Weights and Measures Association. Most of you may have heard by now of Dave Stephens, the 54-year-old Leigh-on-Sea (Essex) butcher who announced well before 1 January 2000 that he "would not be dictated to" by Brussels-inspired compulsory metrication laws. He has since confirmed his intention of carrying on selling meat in pounds and ounces. What follows is an update on the state of play of the resistance movement to EU metrication. Please do check with us the up-to-date position when you get your copy of "Independence", as events have been moving rapidly.
Dave Stephens and his wife Mandy Reilly of Mandy's Chop Shop were served with an Infringement Notice by Southend-on-Sea Trading Standards Department at lunchtime on Thursday 6 January. Mandy was upset and unable to work for the rest of the day. The Notice orders them to convert six weighing machines from imperial to metric display and to sell loose goods in metric units only. They have 28 days to comply, i.e. until Thursday 3 February. If by that date they have refused to obey Southend Council, they will be prosecuted in Southend Magistrates Court and face total fines of up to œ7,000 and confiscation of their Imperial weighing machines. Not one of their customers wants them to convert, and 3,000 have signed a petition asking for the law to be reversed. Jeffrey Titford delivered that petition in person to the Department of Trade and Industry at 2 pm on Tuesday 11 January, the day of the UKIP's anti-metrication protest which attracted camera crews from 12 TV stations including ones from Canada, Austria and Russia! Jeffrey then met with two senior DTI officials, their press officer and two of their legal advisers for over an hour. They gave Jeffrey a stern "no compromise" message and said he should advise Mr. Stephens to give in as 90% of British life was now metric and it had to be 100%.
In December, UKIP paid for a legal opinion on the Weights and Measures Regulations from barrister and CIB committee member Michael Shrimpton (who generously made a substantial reduction on his normal fees). In 27 pages, it sets out his clear view that the Regulations purporting to force traders to sell in metric units only are ultra vires, i.e. illegal - and that it would be unconstitutional, oppressive and improper for any Council to bring a prosecution. UKIP has committed itself to backing Dave and Mandy all the way. If the case in the Magistrates' Court should be lost, they then have the right of appeal in the Crown Court, Court of Appeal and finally the House of Lords. We intend to help them all the way. Three other barristers have also offered to help and all say that there is no basis for making it a criminal offence to sell in pounds and ounces or feet and inches if that is what customers want; they all believe Dave and Mandy should appeal to the House of Lords if necessary.
Defending him - and maybe others - will cost money. There are legal reasons why solicitors and barristers cannot offer to help entirely free of charge - they can be at risk on costs if the case is lost. Jeffrey and his fellow MEPs have already put money into a separate fund for victims of the EU and that will be used so far as possible. However, a second account at the NatWest in Chelmsford has now been opened, titled the "UKIP Metric Martyrs Account". That will be used exclusively to help traders faced with legal and other costs following the service of Infringement Notices. Any funds not used up when the campaign is over (which may be some time ahead) will be returned to donors on a pro-rata basis. To date, over œ1,000 has already been donated to this fund. We need more please in order to bring to bear the best possible legal resources to defeat this unnecessary and draconian legislation.
Several other traders have joined the protest, the most well known being Bruce Robertson of Trago Mills, the big West Country retailers. At the time of writing, neither Cornwall nor Devon Trading Standards has served any Infringement Notices on him.
We are still most anxious to encourage other traders to join the anti-metrication campaign. They will need considerable courage to do so, most having been intimidated by Trading Standards visiting them all during the last six months and intimidating them with tales of stiff penalties and confiscation of equipment. If you are in contact with market traders, small shopkeepers or indeed anyone who wants to continue offering their customers `Imperial choice', please tell them the following:
We welcome all enquiries on this controversial and symbolic issue; please write to us at: UKIP Office, Rooms 1 and 2, Rochester House, 145 New London Road, Chelmsford, Essex CM2 0QT, phone us on 01245 266466 or 251651, or e-mail us on email@example.com.
Tony Bennett is Political Assitant to Jeffrey Titford MEP (and CIB member, Essex Branch). The BWMA is at 45 Montgomery Street, Edinburgh EH7 5JX,