HC Deb 02 November 2000 vol 355 c829
8. Mr. Phil Sawford (Kettering)

What action he is taking to reduce the number of injuries caused by fireworks. [133894]

The Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs (Dr. Kim Howells)

We have jumped backwards now, Mr. Speaker, from question 9 to question 8.

The comprehensive measures introduced under the Fireworks (Safety) Regulations 1997 are again being supplemented by a robust, targeted firework safety campaign.

Mr. Sawford

I thank my hon. Friend for the work that he and his Department are doing to reduce the number of injuries caused by fireworks each year. I urge him to consider tighter regulations to restrict sales to organised events only, and thus end the annual ritual whereby hundreds of people suddenly go into their backyards and play with explosives. Every year hundreds of people are maimed and disfigured; sometimes there are fatalities. It is time to take tougher action to reduce those numbers.

Will my hon. Friend consider further restrictions on the availability of fireworks? [Interruption.] Just listen. Fireworks are currently let off indiscriminately for weeks before bonfire night and for weeks afterwards. That causes great anxiety, especially to elderly people, pet owners and pet lovers. It is perfectly reasonable for the Government to consider the matter.

Dr. Howells

Obviously fireworks provide a great deal of entertainment for people, because 100 million were sold last year. We would encourage people who are unhappy about buying and letting off fireworks to go to professionally organised displays, but we do not believe that there is a case for a total ban on the retail sale of fireworks. We have legislated to reduce the public's access to more powerful fireworks, but a complete ban could encourage a black market, or lead to people making devices or importing fireworks illegally.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

Given that the 1997 regulations prohibit the supply of fireworks of erratic flight—mini rockets, aerial shells, aerial maroons, maroons in mortar and shells in mortar—does the Under-Secretary agree that before considering the extension of those regulations, which the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Sawford) favours, it would be preferable if he could first tell us what evidence he has adduced of compliance with them?

Dr. Howells

As the hon. Gentleman is such a jumping cracker, I am surprised that he forgot to mention squibs. As he knows, the rate of accidents has been decreasing since 1994. I believe that the regulations are working well and that we should keep them.