Fireworks debate: MPs call for action as attitudes change

  • MPs pressed for more information and tighter regulations of fireworks in a parliamentary debate this week.

    The discussion took place on Monday (29 January) as a result of a petition, set up by horse owner Julie Doorne, which received more than 111,000 signatures.

    The petition called for a ban on public use of fireworks and for the government to collect statistics about firework-related incidents.

    “Everyone who spoke [on Monday] said we need change,” Julie told H&H, adding it is “fantastic” that attitudes seem to be changing.

    “I think there has been a massive groundswell among politicians.”

    Julie and members of the Firework Abatement Group have been lobbying politicians and encouraging the public to write to their MPs about the problems fireworks can cause.

    Ahead of Monday’s debate, more than 1,300 letters were sent to 460 MPs through an online letter generator lent to the cause by campaign group Hope For Horses.

    Ms Doorne said the message got through to MPs, who have acknowledged “there is a problem” with public use of fireworks.

    Susan Jones, Labour MP for Clwyd South, opened the debate and called for public consultation.

    “The petitioners refer to the need for proper statistics about firework-related incidents,” said Ms Jones.

    “A related newspaper article states that petitioners found it impossible to get the relevant information through Freedom of Information Act requests.

    “I agree with the petitioners that to debate this issue properly and to consider the extent of the problem we need full and accurate data.

    “We do not have that at the moment, and I believe that the government should provide it.”

    She added “it is time” the government launched a “proper, comprehensive consultation”.

    “We cannot discuss all this by anecdote alone,” said Ms Jones.

    “We cannot seriously have a grown-up discussion about what the law should be when all we have to go on is the subjectivity of lawmakers who have happy childhood memories of small informal firework displays and those who, for equally personal reasons, do not.

    We need evidence, statistics and a proper debate, and we need the government to launch a formal consultation on this issue.”

    Tory MP Bill Grant, who has a background in the fire service, spoke of the impact fireworks can have on people as well as animals and asked whether firework regulations are fully understood by those who enforce them.

    Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick, who is also a former firefighter, said he does not think the “correct balance” has yet been struck.

    “People are worried about fireworks,” he said.

    “We are not giving the subject enough attention and it deserves more attention from the government, even if that is only in the form of stronger messages to retailers and users.

    “The situation is already out of control in many places and will not improve; it will only get worse. We need government action.”

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    Kemi Badenock, Tory MP for Saffron Walden, added fireworks must be “used responsibly”.

    “My constituents are asking not for a ban, but just for more controls on private displays, and I think that there are grounds for looking into the legislation,” she added.

    Andrew Griffiths, the new parliamentary under-secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, said he recognised the positive and negative sides to fireworks.

    He added one of his first jobs as minister was to create the Office for Product Safety and Standards, which will receive £12million a year in central government funding. One of its roles will be to review guidance on safe and responsible use of fireworks.

    “We believe that, at the moment, we have a balance between people’s concerns about fireworks, and the legitimate interests of those who wish to enjoy celebrating with fireworks and of those employed in the firework industry,” he said.

    “However, we recognise that more can and must be done.”

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