Weighing up Red Tape in Parliament

18th Jan 2016

UKWF Member companies recently raised the importance of protecting consumers against incorrect weights and measures in Parliament and with great success.

In total 35 individuals from the UKWF membership attended the recent reception held in the Houses of Parliament on the 13th January, and they were given cross party support from 14 MP’s from both the Labour and Conservative parties. These MP’s were keen to understand the wider impact the legislative changes being made by government were having on businesses and consumers living in their constituency.

The question asked at the meeting was, ‘Has the right balance been struck between reducing the burden of regulation on businesses against the risk of non-compliance that would result in consumers losing trust in the weights they were buying. 
The UKWF were able to produce information from the NMRO’s Section 70 Report (Weights & Measures Act 1985) annual report and market surveys carried out by the NMRO that demonstrated there was a lack of compliance in the market, and that there was dwindling resources within local Trading Standards to prevent non-compliance.  
In terms of man power the dwindling resources has meant a reduction from 1,050 officers capable of carrying out checks in 1992 to only 257 officers in in 2015. This equates to 1.2 officers per local authority to check every single weighing device in the region.
This resource has meant that only 6.6% of machines that weigh the goods that you and I buy have been checked. Is that consumer protection? The view of those attending the event was concern and fear that less scrupulous companies could easily profit from this reduction in red tape.
And the scale of the potential problem highlights the concern, with £212 billion worth of household expenditure per year that needs to be protected by the weights and measures legislation.

The UK Weighing Federation explained that every sector is affected and highlights a few that were of particular concern. Recent reports found that a scary 23% of medical scales in hospitals were unfit for medical use, and 25% of weighbridges were sufficiently incorrect to be illegal, which if left unchecked will result in lorries unknowingly carrying dangerously unsafe loads on our roads.
They were pleased to get so many MPs across both parties to recognise this potential issue and willing to work on making sure consumers are properly protected.

“The most important thing is to avoid a race to the bottom with less scrupulous suppliers set to gain the most from weaker regulation at the consumer’s expense.” commented Nick Catt, President of the UK Weighing Federation, “So we need to persuade the government to reconsider the current legislation and look at a two year periodic re-verification approach, a proven system that already guarantees consumers get what they pay for across the rest of Europe.”
 

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