Why are British billions and trillions sometimes different to US?

Sometimes when the British talk about billions, they actually mean what we Americans would call trillions. It's important to get clarification on which billion they're actually using in their figures because both methods are still being used.

There is also a historical difference between billions, trillions and so forth. Americans use billion to mean one thousand million (1,000,000,000), whereas in the UK, until the later part of the 20th century, it used to mean one million million (1,000,000,000,000). In 1974 the British prime minister, harold Wilson, told the House of Commons that UK government statistics would now use the short scale; followed by the Chancellor, Denis Healey, in 1975, that the treasury would now adopt the US billion version. 1

You may find some documents that still use the historical version.

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