HC Deb 05 December 2002 vol 395 cc1041-2
10. Mr. Harold Best (Leeds, North-West)

If she will propose legislation limiting the use of fireworks to local government licensed events. [83611]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Miss Melanie Johnson)

I have no plans to limit the use of fireworks to organised public displays, including local organised events.

Mr. Best

Will my hon. Friend explain a little further why not?

Miss Johnson

One reason is that it would require primary legislation and our current programme does not include such a Bill. However, I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware that the Government supported a private Member's Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Linda Gilroy). Sadly, it was talked out on 3 July 1998, but it would have included provisions such as those referred to by my hon. Friend.

Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge)

Does the Minister appreciate that many Members have received numerous complaints on the subject of fireworks, especially from people in urban and suburban areas? One of the biggest problems is the level of noise. In my constituency, that affects elderly people and people who keep livestock outside, especially birdkeepers. If the hon. Lady is unable to consider legislation such as that proposed by the hon. Member for Leeds, North-West (Mr. Best), is there some way noise from fireworks can be reduced to acceptable levels?

Miss Johnson

I have every sympathy with the hon. Gentleman and his constituents, and indeed all constituents, including my own—all of whom have in recent times suffered from a high degree of noise nuisance from fireworks, as have their pets. The package of measures that I announced on 15 October will do much to cut noise from fireworks, because a ban on air bombs will be effective from January. They are among the noisiest repeating fireworks that are cheaply available and cause noise and nuisance that is completely unacceptable in local communities.

Mr. John Battle (Leeds, West)

Although I welcome the package of measures, they go nowhere near far enough. Fireworks continue to be sold well after bonfire night. Some fireworks are so powerful that they can blow up telephone boxes. It seems that there is consensus for legislation on both sides of the House, so can we introduce a licensing scheme, with licensed distributors, for the sale of fireworks and stop their sale from shops? Secondly, can local authorities licence events such as parties and celebrations so that there is some control of the whole business? I am sure that there is agreement on both sides of the House for the speedy introduction of legislation to tackle that abuse.

Miss Johnson

I agree with my hon. Friend that there is a degree of consensus, which we welcome. I am also aware that we need to give the measures that I announced some time to take effect, as there will be a lead-in time for the fireworks industry as regards the sale of fireworks. However, in addition to those measures, the Government stand ready to look further at the need to promote quiet communities and to secure safety through other opportunities that may arise in the future.