Barometers battle lost
Tuesday, 5th June 2007
EU to ban the traditional instruments
Brussels, 5th June 2007 -- The battle for the traditional barometer was declared lost today by London MEP Syed Kamall after EU governments (including the UK) and a majority of MEPs in the Parliament's environment committee voted against a Conservative amendment to exempt the instrument from legislation on mercury.
The European Commission proposed a ban on the use of mercury in all measuring devices in 2006, because as a heavy metal it can be toxic to humans, ecosystems and wildlife. MEPs including Mr Kamall had argued that appropriate safety warnings and careful controls could have allowed the continuation of barometer manufacturer and repair, and safeguard many jobs and small businesses in the UK and the rest of Europe.
When the directive first came before the Parliament in November 2006, 327 MEPs supported a Conservative amendment to the proposals, which would have excluded the 400-year old tradition of barometer making from the ban.
Since then, EU governments - including the UK - voted to overturn the Parliament's amendment and today Parliament caved into their wishes by rejecting a new Conservative amendment to exempt barometers. It would now take a vote by the full Parliament with a 'qualified majority' to overturn the decision by national governments, and that seems impossible now.
Mr Kamall - who took part in the vote this morning - said:
"There was absolutely no need to ban the barometer. The quantities of mercury used are tiny, and professional barometer repairers are trained in how to handle it. The consequence of this law will be the opposite of what is intended.
"Now when our barometers break, we will no longer be able to call on skilled technicians to mend them. So people will just throw them away, letting mercury spill into the atmosphere.
"Banning the traditional barometer is like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut with no care for where the nut's splinters might fall.
"Labour MEPs and the the Labour Government have let down our barometer industry. They had an opportunity to exempt the instrument and instead they chose to undermine a great British tradition and craft."