HC Deb 08 November 1973 vol 863 cc1159-60
14. Miss Fookes

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will take steps to ban the sale of fireworks except under licence for organised displays.

42. Mr. Peter Archer

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will introduce legislation to prohibit the retail sale of fireworks, except under licence.

Mr. Lane

No, Sir.

Miss Fookes

Would my hon. Friend take the same view if this were a brand-new product being introduced to the market instead of a well-established product with vested interests well entrenched?

Mr. Lane

That is very hypothetical. We must try to keep this in perspective. Last year was a bad year for firework accidents, but, even so, the number has been halved in the last 10 years. This year we took special publicity steps including the help, among others, of the Osmond Brothers to get the message across, and I hope that the figures will be better. If they are not, we shall reconsider the issue.

Mr. Archer

Are not the arguments all one way, since this proposal would save a great deal of suffering whilst sacrificing nothing in entertainment? How many accidents does the Minister consider to be too many?

Mr. Lane

I am certainly not complacent about this. Anyone who reads about accidents, particularly to children's eyes, cannot be complacent. However, we would be depriving many people of reasonable pleasure in sensibly conducted firework parties. Therefore, I suggest that the right answer is to continue publicity and education.

Sir John Hall

Does not my hon. Friend agree that there is a danger of the Government being asked to become far too paternalistic? Is not this on a par with cigarette smoking, for example, which is probably much more damaging to health than the use of fireworks? Should we ask for cigarettes to be smoked only under licence?

Mr. Lane

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We should rely as far as we can on the good sense of the individuals, particularly parents.

Mr. John Fraser

I should not regard the saving of children's lives and preventing injury to them as being paternalistic. In view of the increase that has taken place in the sale of fireworks, will the Department consider licensing shops for the sale of fireworks and raising the age limit at which a child may buy them? At present, although the limit is 14, younger children are able to buy them.

Mr. Lane

I know that these suggestions have been made. I do not rule out further steps being taken if we think that they are necessary. At the moment we do not. The balance of restriction freedom and responsibility is about right.