HC Deb 06 November 2003 vol 412 cc916-7
3. Phil Sawford (Kettering)

What steps she has taken to control the sale and use of fireworks. [136676]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe)

The Fireworks (Safety) Regulations 1997 prohibit the supply of consumer-type fireworks to those under 18 years of age. They also prohibit the supply of dangerous types of fireworks to the general public—bangers, fireworks of erratic flight and so on. Under the Fireworks Act 2003, we will regulate to make it an offence for under-18s to possess fireworks in a public place, and to prohibit the possession of category 4 fireworks by any person other than a professional. In the new year we will enforce in law the firework industry's current voluntary ban on air bombs.

Phil Sawford

I thank my hon. Friend for that response and for his earlier comments. Last night, London echoed to the sound of fireworks as families and communities came together in their thousands to enjoy the fun and spectacle—but for many, the misuse of fireworks blights their lives, threatens their homes, terrifies their pets and destroys their quality of life. I welcome the new proposals and, although no one wants to be a killjoy, I ask my hon. Friend to do everything he can to ensure that the police and local authorities enforce any new legislation to stop the misuse of fireworks and stamp out that menace in our communities.

Mr. Sutcliffe

I congratulate my hon. Friend, who over the years has campaigned vigorously to ensure that people do not suffer injury from fireworks. I pay tribute to his work. I was pleased to see that last year's figures showed a 25 per cent. reduction over the previous year, so the safety message is, I hope, getting through. I assure him that we shall do everything we can to ensure that people use fireworks safely.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire)

May I take it that the extremely sensible decision to prevent under-18s from possessing fireworks indicates that the Government will take a similarly robust and sensible line on votes at 16?

Mr. Sutcliffe

I am happy to say that that is not a matter for me.

Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West)

I thank the Minister for his comments, and I want to emphasise that the number of complaints about fireworks has been growing year by year. Indeed, I have received from a constituent of mine—Mr. Bill Woodward, who is 80 today—a newspaper cutting from the Tipton Herald of 1963, the year in which he started his campaign for legislation on fireworks. I seek an assurance that the Minister will introduce those elements of the Fireworks Act 2003 that can be introduced as soon as possible, preferably before Christmas, so that I can reassure Mr. Woodward that the fruits of his labour will be achieved in his lifetime.

Mr. Sutcliffe

I would be pleased if my hon. Friend would give my congratulations to Mr. Woodward on achieving his 80th birthday, and on his work on firework campaigning. We will include in regulation as soon as possible—before the new year—those elements of the 2003 Act that we can include. Hopefully, all the regulations will be in place by July of next year in readiness for the subsequent firework celebrations.

Mr. Bill Tynan (Hamilton, South)

Does my hon. Friend agree that one current major problem—the British Fireworks Association is on board in this regard—is that the simplicity of the application form for an import licence is allowing unscrupulous firms to import hundreds of tonnes of fireworks and distribute them indiscriminately, which is causing many of the problems with antisocial behaviour? Will he consider changing the terms of the import licence application to make it more difficult for such companies to import fireworks?

Mr. Sutcliffe

I am happy to address that issue with my hon. Friend, to whom I earlier paid tribute for his work on firework; indeed, it is his work that has got us where we are today. I know that he has raised this issue with my ministerial colleagues. I am happy to discuss it with him, and I am sure that we can come to an arrangement. He is right—illegal fireworks are part of the problem and we need to work with the industry and to have proper regulation.