Pressure drops on British barometer as ban threat averted

In a key vote today the European Commission’s attempt to ban the barometer was defeated because British Conservatives persuaded the European Parliament to back the UK barometer industry

Strasbourg, November 14th, 2006 — The traditional British barometer has been saved once again by Conservative MEPs, who led the European Parliament’s vote to defeat a proposed law to outlaw the use of mercury in the ancient weather instrument.

Earlier this year, the European Parliament voted to exclude barometers from the EU’s strategy on mercury. However, despite this, an EU directive on mercury was published and the anticipated protection for barometers was missing.

The renewed threat prompted Conservative MEPs to resurrect the campaign to save the British barometer. He tabled an amendment to exempt the 400-year-old tradition from the proposals.

Mercury is a heavy metal which can be toxic to humans, ecosystems and wildlife, but Sir Robert believes appropriate safety warnings and careful controls will allow the continuation of barometer manufacturer and repair, and safeguard many jobs and small businesses in the UK and the rest of Europe.

The British Government offered no support to British business and supported the Commission's proposed ban.

Sir Robert, who is deputy leader of the Conservative Delegation in the European Parliament, said:

“Labour abandoned the barometer industry and today we saved it.

“Mercury does need to be controlled but banning the traditional household barometer is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. The Commission must now see sense and provide an exemption for the barometer.

“A ban would have seen the end of the tradition of barometer making which was begun in the mid 1600s when mercury barometers were first introduced.

“Barometers are only made by a small group of people in Europe, predominantly located in the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium who also carry out the repair, maintenance and recycling of historic instruments.

“If this mercury ban was implemented, these businesses would have closed down, and repairing barometers would have been impossible.

“Appropriate product safety warnings and carefully controlled usage will mean people can continue to use barometers as they have for centuries without a threat to the environment or to public health.”

Mr Philip Collins from Barometer World Ltd (in Devon), the world’s largest firm dealing in and restoring barometers, said:

“Barometers are my livelihood. I deal with mercury every day and the levels are so small that I have never been adversely affected.

“We do take health and safety very seriously and keeping mercury out of the waste stream must be a priority but banning barometers is completely disproportionate to the potential risk.

“I’m thrilled that the Parliament has voted for this amendment. The European Commission has no justification for threatening our barometers and they must preserve our traditions by ensuring we can continue to practice this ancient art.”

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