HC Deb 19 February 1997 vol 290 cc914-5
9. Mr. Burden

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the progress of his review of firework safety regulations. [15030]

Mr. John M. Taylor

As an initial response to the review, I introduced regulations in December that prohibit the supply of aerial shells to the public. I hope soon to be able to announce my overall response to my Department's discussion document.

In the meantime, I should like to report that the total number of firework injuries in Great Britain last firework season was 1,233—a reduction of 19 per cent. on the previous year. I shall place those figures in the Library.

Mr. Burden

I thank the Minister for having responded positively to repeated calls from the Opposition to introduce a ban on aerial shells. He mentioned a figure of about 1,200 injuries; those shells were responsible for two deaths in the past year. Is he aware that the temporary ban will be welcomed by reputable firework manufacturers, and that some on the fringes of the firework industry are seeking to get round the ban? What monitoring system has he put in place to ensure that the ban is effective? When will he introduce a national training scheme to ensure that aerial shells are available only to those certified competent to use them?

Mr. Taylor

I did not respond to Labour when I took action at the end of last year; I responded to a thorough-going consultation that I initiated.

Voluntary training has an important role to play in encouraging the safe use of fireworks. Trading standards officers will have my full support in their surveillance work.

Sir Irvine Patnick

Many people present for this programme will recollect that it used to be called Question Time—1 do not know whether Labour Front Benchers have had a new idea. I come from the old school of sparklers and catherine wheels; the worst thing we had was bangers.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

It is a bit of a damp squib.

Madam Speaker

Order. I want to hear the jokes, too, but I cannot.

Sir Irvine Patnick

It is rare that one is heckled from one's own side of the House.

I hope that, after the consultations, the enjoyment that some people have had in this theatre, programme or Chamber will not be stopped and that, through legislation, powers will be given to local authorities to control the sale of certain types of firework that should never have been imported into this country.

Mr. Taylor

In the spirit of that question, I shall content myself by saying that, in my experience, sparklers can be more dangerous than bangers.

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