HC Deb 31 October 2002 vol 391 cc991-2
6. Mr. David Crausby (Bolton, North-East)

What steps she is taking to improve firework safety. [76422]

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

On 15 October I announced a package of measures to address the problems caused by fireworks. The measures are designed to cut down on the problems of noise and nuisance as well as to reduce accidents.

Mr. Crausby

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does she agree that the menace caused by fireworks increases year on year, and will she consider legislation, not voluntary codes, to restrict severely the retail sale of fireworks, which causes so much distress, particularly to the elderly?

Miss Johnson

It was, and is, because I recognised the problems caused in communities by the illegal use of fireworks on the streets, often by teenagers, that I announced this package of measures. We need to see how effective the measures are in reducing problems. We are making air bombs illegal, introducing fixed-penalty notices, tackling the co-ordination of intelligence and encouraging councils to take steps. Many people thoroughly enjoy fireworks each year, and we need to strike the right balance to be effective.

David Burnside (South Antrim)

Will the Minister take account of the fireworks directive that the Northern Ireland Office introduced in the spring and evaluate its impact before taking any measures on the mainland? The directive imposed a £30 application fee for private firework displays; that has almost wiped out the use of private fireworks, yet the use of illegal fireworks in Northern Ireland has massively increased. Will the Minister please consider the evidence of getting involved, with good intentions, in measures that have a counterproductive impact, as has happened in Northern Ireland?

Miss Johnson

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. Of course, we always stay in contact with colleagues elsewhere in government to share their experience. We will indeed watch the situation in Northern Ireland with interest.

David Wright (Telford)

Will my hon. Friend consider regulating to shift the sale of fireworks to mail order? That would have the benefits of removing fireworks from shops and ensuring that only people with credit or debit cards could purchase them.

Miss Johnson

I do not entirely share my hon. Friend's enthusiasm for that method of purchasing fireworks, because I believe that that may be a cause of some of the difficulties. Although it is true that unregulated sales of fireworks to teenagers through unregulated outlets is often the problem, I am not sure that the remedy that my hon. Friend suggests would help. I would prefer that we clamp down on the use of fireworks in the streets and on the routes by which young people acquire them illegally, It is illegal to sell a firework to anyone under 18.

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