MPs spent two hours this week (6 June) debating further restrictions on the use of fireworks – but declined to make any changes to the current law.
An e-petition organised by Lincolnshire horse owner Julie Doorne and Jill Cutsworth from Beverley was debated in parliament after it was signed by more than 100,000 people.
The petition was calling for the Fireworks Regulations 2004 law to be amended to restrict the use of fireworks by the general public to the traditional dates around Guy Fawkes’ night, New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year celebrations.
“For many of us, fireworks are a source of great enjoyment and are used to celebrate many great occasions throughout the year,” said David Mackintosh, Conservation MP for Northampton South who led the debate.
“However for animals, fireworks can be a source of fear and distress,” he added.
Julie Doorne helped launched the petition last October after fireworks at a nearby wedding party “lit up” her field and caused her three horses “great distress.”
During the debate Angela Smith, Labour MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, congratulated the originators of the petition “on gaining so much support and getting the issue debated.”
She said she was “not a killjoy” but would prefer to see people going to public firework displays rather than let them off outside their homes.
Any attempt to tighten regulations is opposed by the British Fireworks Association, which believes it could cost jobs and force legitimate retailers out of business.
Mr Mackintosh said that although most people who use fireworks do so responsibly the percentage of animals distressed by fireworks is “significant.”
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“The most effective way to reduce the suffering of affected animals may be through education instead of legislation,” he told MPs.
Responding on behalf of the government, Jo Johnson, minister for universities and science said he completely understood “the distress caused to animals and their owners by the unexpected noise that fireworks produce.”
But Mr Johnson added that the legislation currently in place on the use, sale and production of fireworks is “robustly enforced” and penalties for breeching the laws “appropriate to ensure that animal welfare is protected.”
A statement on the government petitions website reads: “Although there is some use of fireworks outside the traditional periods, we believe that the majority of people who use fireworks do so at the appropriate times of year and have a sensible and responsible attitude towards them.
“There are no plans at the moment to place further limitations on their use.”