While many people enjoy the use of fireworks on special occasions, I appreciate others do not like them and I have spoken to several constituents in Mid Sussex who have emphasised their frustrations about fireworks which, as well as being incredibly loud, can also be dangerous and why I am glad the use and sale of them is controlled.
I support the considerate use of fireworks, as well as any action taken to reduce the risks and disturbances to individuals, animals and property, and I understand that the Government has worked with animal welfare groups in previous fireworks seasons to promote the safe and thoughtful use of fireworks.
Firework regulations allow fireworks for home use to be sold during the traditional firework periods of Bonfire Night, New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year and Diwali. Suppliers who wish to sell fireworks outside these times must comply with stringent conditions before being granted a license by their local licensing authority. This means the availability and use of fireworks outside these periods has been greatly reduced.
Regulations allow the public to buy and use certain categories of fireworks for family use and for private firework displays and I am aware that there is a noise level limit on fireworks for home use, which helps to reduce disturbance to both animals and people.
The Animal Welfare Act 2006 makes it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to animals through the misuse of fireworks. Fireworks should not be set off near livestock or close to buildings that house livestock, or near to horses in fields and anyone planning a firework display in rural areas should warn neighbouring farmers.
The Government has considered very closely the matter of a ban on the sale of fireworks to the general public. All the evidence, however, is that most people who enjoy fireworks are prepared to use them sensibly and responsibly on specific occasions as a form of popular family entertainment. The Government therefore concluded fireworks should not be banned for sale to, or use by, the public. Although there is some use of fireworks outside the traditional periods, the majority of people who use fireworks do so at the appropriate times of year and have a sensible and responsible attitude towards them.
While there are no plans at the moment to place further limitations on the use of fireworks, the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) has engaged with a wide range of views and developed an evidence base on the key issues that have been raised around fireworks including noise, as well as anti-social behaviour, non-compliance, environmental impact, and the impact on humans and animals.
Following the review by the OPSS, I understand that the Government remains committed to promoting the safe and considerate use of fireworks through the effective legislative framework and through non-legislative measures. Any further restrictions on fireworks sold to the public by retail outlets could possibly lead to more individuals buying products inappropriately, through online social media sources or from outside the UK which could drive individuals to source fireworks from illegitimate or unsafe suppliers, where products may not meet the UK’s safety requirements or, indeed, could encourage people to produce their own dangerous homemade devices. Enforcement of the existing regime, rather than a ban, helps to prevent this occurring.
Regarding the Scottish Government Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles Act - my colleagues in the Scottish Parliament have assured me that they will work constructively with the Scottish Government and monitor the effectiveness of this new legislation.