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Call for tougher firework regulations

12 November 2019

A REPORT by the Petitions Committee has called for tougher regulations to reduce the distress fireworks cause to animals, people with health conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and small children.

The cross-party committee has not called for an outright ban of the sale of fireworks but the report is calling on Government to take action on irresponsible fireworks use and improve industry regulation.

The report was produced after around 750,000 people signed petitions to the committee calling for a crackdown on the way fireworks are sold to the public.

The recommendations of the report came following consultations with groups including people with a wide range of health conditions and disabilities and organisations that support them, military veterans and animal rights charities. The inquiry also collected evidence from the RSPCA, the British Fireworks Association, the National Police Chiefs Council, and the National Fire Chiefs Council.

Chris Kemp, NFCC Lead for Petroleum, Explosives and Fireworks, provided written and oral information to assist the inquiry. Specifically highlighting a concern for the number of attacks on emergency services personnel in his local service area. This increase has also been nationally with latest figures published on 1st November indicating that attacks on firefighters are at their highest since this data collection began in 2010/11. NFCC is fully supportive of the new legislation - ‘Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act’ – increasing the penalty from six months to a potential 12 month jail term. This traditionally increases during bonfire and fireworks period, which is completely unacceptable.

Following publication of the report Chris Kemp commented, “We support the move to strengthen regulation and enforcement around the sale of fireworks and to make it simpler for retailers to adhere to the rules whilst closing some of the loopholes allowing retailers to store small quantities without a licence. We are working with the Government and Fire and Rescue Services to address the concerns raised.”

“Fireworks are explosives and should be treated with the upmost respect and care. Anything which raises awareness with the public about the dangers of fireworks, the impact they have upon certain people and which deters youngsters from being attracted to them is a positive step and will prevent future injuries.” 

Petitions Committee chair Helen Jones said, “Our inquiry has shone a light on the troubling human 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.

She added: “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.”

Key recommendations made in the report include:

  • The Government and agencies must collate and publish data on problems associated with fireworks in a consistent way, to facilitate local responses.
  • Legislation must be introduced to empower local authorities to tackle this issue head on, so permits can be introduced in communities where the irresponsible use of fireworks is a particular problem for residents.
  • Many consumer fireworks are packaged in a way that will appeal to children – creating a risk that children could be tempted to play or tamper with fireworks stored in the home. The Government should act swiftly to remove this risk through new packaging regulations.
  • 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.
  • The Government should act quickly to close a loophole around the storage by retailers of up to 5kg of fireworks without a licence. It should also conduct a review of online sales of fireworks, particularly over social media, establishing a strategy to tackle illegal online sales.
  • The Government must fund and coordinate major, national awareness campaigns, from October 2020 and annually thereafter, on responsible use of fireworks to raise awareness of the dangers of fireworks

The Petitions Committee have submitted the report for consideration and expect to receive a response from the Government in the new Parliament.