HL Deb 03 March 1964 vol 256 cc33-6

3.56 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this is a very modest Bill in length and, in spite of its Title, unlikely to cause any "fireworks" in your Lordships' House. But it is, none the less, important in practice for the sake of our export trade. It is a Private Member's Bill introduced in another place by my honourable friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead. The trouble has arisen from the Fireworks Act, 1951, which in Clause 5 says that no fireworks shall be consigned from the factory in which they were made unless each firework bears conspicuously the name of the occupier of the factory and the address of the factory. There are many buyers in foreign countries who are not very happy to receive fireworks exported from this country marked in this way with the name of the British factory and its address, and the extra labour involved in re-labelling each firework which may be exported to a foreign country puts us out of competition with other countries who are prepared to supply fireworks unmarked.

Therefore, the only object of this Bill is to provide that, where fireworks are being exported, there is no need for Clause 5 of the 1951 Act to apply, and that they may be exported unmarked. This Bill has a comparatively small effect, and it may seem to your Lordships somewhat like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, but unfortunately this is the only way in which this particular object can be achieved. Finally, I should merely like to stress that nothing in this Bill will in any way affect the safety provisions that exist both for the manufacture of fireworks and for their transport in this country and abroad. I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Aberdare.)

3.59 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to raise just one point. It may really be inappropriate to do so on this particular Bill, but we were earlier this afternoon dealing with the question of safety of children in regard to nightdresses. Over the last few years in my diocese in Manchester there have been a very considerable number of accidents to children through fireworks. It would seem, although I have not the figures, that the number of such accidents is increasing considerably, possibly due to the fact that we live in a more affluent society and fireworks are more easily procurable. I have seen pictures of hospital cases of children who have been injured by fireworks; they are really terrible to look at, and every year a large number of children in this country receive accidents in this way.

It is not often that one gets an opportunity of making some protest about this and I should like to do so on this particular occasion, although I should not like anyone to think that I was in any sense a killjoy. Fireworks may be very amusing things, but they could surely be let off under appropriate, adequate adult supervision, and I think it is wrong that we should allow fireworks to be distributed, as they are at present in this country, more or less indiscriminately to children, leading to a great deal of distress and pain. I should like to know whether Her Majesty's Government have any plan for looking into this and seeing whether what I say is correct—that these accidents are increasing—and, if so, in what way they could be decreased.

4.0 p.m.


My Lords, may I express a good deal of doubt about the merits of this Bill? The provision with regard to marking the manufacturer's name on the fireworks was designed in the interests of the public. As the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, said when he introduced the Bill in 1951, if fireworks are marked, it will be easier to trace the makers or the importer, as the case may be, if any of them are found to be dangerous; and, as a result, if dangerous fireworks are found, the appropriate steps can be taken against the manufacturer concerned. Are we not depriving the purchaser of these fireworks, who may be a Commonwealth citizen or a foreigner, of that degree of protection which we think necessary for our people? Can I be assured that fireworks intended for export will not, as a result of this Bill if it is enacted, be made with a lack of the proper safety precautions which Her Majesty's inspectors require for fireworks for use in this country? I regard that as a very important point. God forbid that we should be more careless of the lives and safety of children, for example, in Malta, where fireworks are used a great deal, than we are of children in this country! I should like to press for consideration particularly of the point that I have made: that unsafe fireworks might be made with impunity under the provisions of this Bill.


My Lords, may I be allowed to say one word in answer to the right reverend Prelate? May I say, with the greatest of respect to him, that this Bill has nothing to do with fireworks for use in this country, but as he referred to regulations for fireworks in this country I will take the opportunity of writing to him in a day or two to pursue that subject further.


My Lords, I am much obliged.


My Lords, I am grateful to those noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate. I would only say to the noble Earl, Lord Iddlesleigh, that nothing in this Bill in any way affects the stringent regulations of the Home Office on the manufacture of fireworks. I think I am right in saying that there are very stringent regulations by the Home Office to see that fireworks which emerge from British factories are as safe as they can be. Moreover, there are further stringent regulations made by the Ministry of Transport, covering the transport of fireworks, so we should certainly not be transporting dangerous fireworks to people overseas. The only object of the Bill is to enable fireworks to be sold overseas without each one being labelled. Of course, the box going abroad would be labelled, and therefore the supplier would be known.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.