House Chair, it's a pleasure to introduce what I think is a Bill that will command broad support in this House, the Legal Metrology Bill of 2013.
The International Organisation of Legal Metrology defines legal metrology as, and I quote:
... the application of legal requirements to measurements and measuring instruments.
Legal metrology is thus concerned with measurements that directly affect consumers, and ensures the quality and credibility of measurements that are used directly in regulations and in areas of trade.
It deals with the risks of misuse of measuring instruments, and of tampering and accidental influences on measuring instruments as well as with issues like the traceability of measurements, thus providing an appropriate level of credibility of measurement results in the regulatory domain. In a broader sense, legal metrology covers the protection of society in areas of health, safety and the environment, and is thus concerned with the interaction between regulations and measurements.
The Legal Metrology Bill which is before the House today replaces the Trade Metrology Act of 1973 which, after 40 years, is outdated and does not provide for the regulation of legal metrology instruments but is limited only to some parts of that, namely weights and measures, and ensures that measurements made by industries when trading using scales, meters and other measuring equipment are accurate.
Legal metrology will afford the same kind of assurance with additional measurements, such as those with respect to water consumption, speeding on the roads, blood pressure determinations, and so on.
This Bill will be administered by the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications, who will be charged with contacting this and is part of the broad DTI family. Over the course of this administration we have sought, as a matter of important policy, to strengthen and bring to the forefront the work of technical infrastructure institutions, also known as standardisation, quality assurance and metrology institutions. We have coined a phrase to say that the role of the technical infrastructure institutions is on the one hand to "lock in" South African products to import and export markets by enabling them to meet the standards and requirements of entry into those markets. At the same time, and this concerns the work of the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications, the role of technical infrastructure is to "lock out" the substandard South African market products that are harmful to health and consumer interests, and also create unfair competition to South African produces that meet the standards.
As already indicated, the Legal Metrology Bill essentially takes forward the principles that were there in earlier legislation by expanding the scope of trade metrology to legal metrology, and allows for a broader range of measurements in the environment of commerce and industry. The strengthening of the enforcement of legal metrology within an appropriate legislative framework supports industrial development in all the ways that I have indicated.
This Bill also brings about a significant change in the structure and corporate governance of the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications. These changes are encapsulated in clause 42 of the Bill, as well as in schedule 2. The National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications, which administers this Bill, is currently overseen by a board. Through the passage of this Bill this will change to a governance structure where the chief executive officer will report directly to the Department of Trade and Industry, in fact, to the Minister of the department. This is done to implement a decision that we have taken, of bringing regulators closer to the department to improve efficiency and to cut out unnecessary layers of bureaucracy in between.
Legal metrology impacts on our everyday lives. It affects many of our ordinary day-to-day decisions - the meat we buy from the butchery, the prepacked staple such as mealie meal, or the volume of fuel that we buy. All of these are subject to measurements of one sort or another. We assume that the litre of fuel that we buy is in fact a litre, but how much gas, or fumes, does it include as well as the liquid. If these transactions are not accurately measured according to regulations, then we as consumers pay too much for the product and we are cheated in this way. Government can also lose out on tax revenue.
I think that this is a piece of legislation that is technical in nature. I want to commend the portfolio committee for the work which they did in organising public hearings and in improving the Bill. I have no hesitation in commending the Bill to the House. I trust that it will draw broad support across the House. Thank you very much. [Applause.]