HC Deb 13 June 2003 vol 406 cc975-7
Mr. Chope

I beg to move amendment No. 56, in page 4, line 3 [Clause 6], at end insert— '() advanced notification of the time and place of the display has been given to the owners or recipients of land adjoining the site of the display'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 57, in page 4, line 9, leave out paragraph (c).

No. 58, in page 4, line 29, at end insert— '() Nothing in this section shall apply to a display from which the public are excluded notwithstanding that it may be witnessed by the public.'.

No. 59, in page 4, line 29, at end insert— '() Nothing in this section shall apply to a display which does not include the use of fireworks under category 4 of the British Standard Specification relating to fireworks published on 30 November 1988 (BS 7114) or any British Standard Specification replacing it.'.

1 pm

Mr. Chope

These amendments deal with the issue of public displays. My hon. Friends may think that amendment No. 56 is far too regulatory and restrictive, as it requires that advance notification of the time and place of a display be given to the owners or occupiers of land adjoining the site of the display. The amendment uses the word "recipients" instead of "occupiers", but I am sure that that is a typo.

A big mischief results from the antisocial use of fireworks when, for example, people let them off without thinking about their neighbours—that is even more true when there is a large, organised display. If they knew that fireworks were going to be let off, dog owners such as myself could put their dog inside and people who have a horse or pony, as my daughter has, could take appropriate precautions. Obviously, it is difficult to take such precautions if one does not know that an event is taking place. In our village, somebody's horse eventually died, I think, from injuries caused by problems with fireworks. Those problems could easily have been overcome if the person organising the firework display had thought of notifying their neighbours. That is the thinking behind the amendment.

Turning briefly to amendment No. 58, the Bill does not cover displays that are not public. However, I am concerned that that may be interpreted as covering displays that may be witnessed by the public. Lots of members of the public, for example, may not be inside the enclosure. That is a nightmare for people organising fireworks displays, as they need income from paying visitors to pay for the fireworks. However, people sometimes find vantage points nearby and enjoy the whole event for free. If the public witness an essentially private fireworks display, that should not fall foul of the regulations.

Amendment No.59 would restrict the application of the clause to fireworks displays that use fireworks under category 4, which vie recognise as big public displays. Again, it is a reasonable measure to clarify, define and limit the application of the clause.

Miss Melanie Johnson

The hon. Gentleman may have corrected the word "recipients", but it still appears in amendment No. 56, and he and I would agree that its meaning is unclear.

Mr. Chope

I raised the matter when I saw the amendments in draft on blue paper. The Clerk assured me that there had been a typographical error and that the word "recipients" would be replaced by the word "occupiers". I am sorry that that does not seem to have materialised on today's Order Paper.

Miss Johnson

I am not sure where that leaves us for the purpose of the debate, although I understand the hon. Gentleman's point. I accept the good intention underlying the amendment, but such a measure would be difficult to operate and potentially ineffectual. The owners of adjoining land in highly populated areas such as London could mean the owners of properties immediately around the perimeter of the display, but neighbours living just a few meters away or at the other end of a small road might be left out. It is difficult to see how the measure would be helpful to all those who might be affected, particularly because, as the hon. Gentleman acknowledged, public displays tend to be large and significant, and can be viewed from quite a wide surrounding area.

I do not believe that the intention is to inform all residents within a defined perimeter, which would be difficult anyway, because of the cost to the operators. Fireworks displays generally are heavily subsidised. There is usually a promoter, who puts a substantial amount in. The proposed measure could oblige the organisers to notify thousands of residents. That might kill off public displays, which we all agree are in general a good thing. In the light of my reservations, I hope the hon. Gentleman will not press the amendments.

Mr. Chope

Has the Minister given the House an assurance that the clause as drafted would not impact in the way that I fear, in relation to displays witnessed by the public from outside?

Miss Johnson

The definition of a public display is set out in subsection (5), which clearly states that a fireworks display is one attended by the public or a section of the public, thereby precluding private fireworks displays on private land. If members of the public choose to watch their neighbours' garden display, that is an instance of "free riding", but we could not classify it as a public display.

Mr. Chope

I thank the Minister far that clarification. In the light of her comments, I shall seek leave to withdraw my amendment No. 56, but with this caveat: the Minister's Department is involved in public information, and it would be useful for the Department to encourage people who are organising public fireworks displays, particularly outside the usual season for fireworks and in rural area s, to notify their neighbours as a matter of good neighbourliness, to avoid some of the problems that have occurred in the past.

Given the particular difficulties with my amendment, which has been printed differently from the way that I had intended, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Back to
Forward to