Misuse of fireworks ‘as bad as drink-driving’ say MPs as hundreds of thousands call for change

The inconsiderate and irresponsible use of fireworks should be as socially unacceptable as drink-driving, according to MPs, as almost 750,000 people have called for change.

The petitions committee has released a “landmark” report calling on the government to act on irresponsible firework use, and improve regulation of the industry.

Over the past three years, petitions asking for tighter restrictions on sales and use of fireworks have been signed more than 750,000 times by UK citizens, resulting in three House of Commons debates.

“But the government’s responses to these petitions, and ministers’ replies to the debates, left petitioners feeling frustrated and ignored,” a spokesman for the petitions committee said. “We undertook this inquiry to hear their concerns and propose changes in response to them.”

More than 307,000 people signed one petition calling for the sale of fireworks to the public to be banned, and for all venues holding displays to be licensed.

But the committee found a ban would have “unintended consequences for community groups and the good causes they support, the wider economy, and may even lead to a dangerous black market”.

It added: “While the petitions committee doesn’t support calls for an outright ban, the inquiry found clear evidence that action is needed to protect animals and some groups of people from serious adverse effects.”

The committee consulted people with a range of health conditions and disabilities, charities that support them, police, fire officers and veterans and animal welfare charities .

“The recommendations were made after listening to all sides of the debate through formal evidence from a number of interest groups during the inquiry and in public consultation events, and it was clear to see these petitions have been motivated by genuine concerns,” the spokesman said.

“Fireworks can be detrimental to animal welfare, can impact the wellbeing of those with disabilities or health conditions such as PTSD or autism, and could pose a risk to small children.”

Key recommendations include the consistent government collation and publication of data on problems associated with fireworks, laws to empower councils to tackle the issue, such as introducing permits in areas where irresponsible firework use is a problem, a review of online sales of fireworks and a strategy to tackle illegal sales.

The report added: “The government needs to review the decibel level limit of consumer fireworks, with animal welfare in mind, with a view to setting a workable reduced decibel limit that would diminish the risks to animals’ health.”

Major national awareness campaigns should also be conducted.

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Petitions committee chairman Helen Jones MP said: “Our inquiry has shone a light on the troubling impact of failing to regulate the fireworks industry effectively. From affecting the mental health of veterans, to harming animal welfare, and even threatening the health of young children, the consequences are widespread.

“It is not good enough for the government to repeatedly claim that the law protects these people and animals from harm. It does not. Now is the time for action, not apathy.

“While we do not support a ban on public sales and use of fireworks, further failure to act from the government and agencies could mean that a ban becomes the only option.”

The petitions committee has submitted the report for consideration, and expects to receive a response from the government in the new parliament.

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