Adam Forrest www.independent.co.uk
In a scathing attack, the Conservative peer said the push to boost the use of pounds, ounces and other outmoded weights and measures would only “add cost” and confusion to businesses.
“I’ve never heard such nonsense in my life,” Lord Rose told Times Radio on Thursday, branding it a “backwards” step aimed at pleasing nostalgic voters.
“I mean, we have got serious problems in the world and we’re now saying let’s go backwards. Does anybody in this country below the age of about 40 know how many ounces there are in a pound?” the Asda chief asked.
Lord Rose said the government was pushing ahead with the plan “just to actually please a small minority of people who hark for the past. It’s complete and utter nonsense and it will add cost to those people who have to put it into place.”
The former boss of Marks & Spencer added: “I am shocked. It’s one thing having a crown on your pint glass, which is a bit of fun and a bit of nostalgia. It’s quite another having a whole dual system of weights and measures.”
The government is set to consult industry on how to reintroduce imperial units in Britain after quitting the EU, with ministers expected to officially announce the move today to coincide with the Queen’s platinum jubilee.
The idea has already faced criticism from the Tory backbenches, with Rutland and Melton MP Alicia Kearns branding it “a nonsense”. Labour has accused Mr Johnson of trying to “weaponise nostalgia”.
Last week, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis claimed voters and businesses would be “pleased” that the government was set to open the door to greater use of imperial units.
But the British Retail Consortium (BRC), the umbrella body representing the big supermarkets, has warned that the move could be “distracting” and costly at a time when food chiefs were trying to tackle inflationary pressures during the cost of living crisis.
Ministers have argued that it would give the likes of greengrocers and pub landlords greater choice over running their businesses, as well as bringing “national culture” back into shops.
Mr Lewis said that, while the policy was “light-hearted”, there were many people who “want to go back” to using pounds and ounces, and measures such as yards and miles.
The EU weights and measures directive came into force in 2000, with traders legally required to use metric units for sale by weight or the measure of fresh produce.
It remains legal to price goods in pounds and ounces, but they have to be displayed alongside the price in grams and kilograms.
The consultation, which is being coordinated by the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), could change those stipulations, allowing traders to choose how they price fresh items.
The Independent understands that there will not be a move away from metric units, but the consultation will look at where it makes sense to incorporate or switch to imperial measurements such as feet and yards, and pints and gallons.
A Tory minister struggled to convert imperial measurements during an interview on Sky News earlier this week, despite Downing Street claiming the system is “universally understood”.
Arts minister Stephen Parkinson gave incorrect answers when Kay Burley asked him to convert ounces and grams into pounds.