HL Deb 08 December 1983 vol 445 cc1184-6

3.6 p.m.

Lord Sandys

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have any intention of tightening up regulations relating to the sale of fireworks in the retail trade to the public.

Lord Belstead

No, my Lords. There is already legislation providing safeguards against the sale of dangerous fireworks, forbidding the sale of fireworks to those under 16, and providing controls over retail outlets. In addition, by voluntary agreement, the supply of fireworks most likely to be dangerous if misused has been phased out; the number of bangers sold has been substantially reduced, as has their explosive content; and the period of general sale around 5th November has been reduced to four weeks.

Lord Sandys

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that very informative and helpful reply. Can he tell the House whether this situation is in any way affected by European regulations?

Lord Belstead

No, my Lords; I am not aware that this is so. But if by any chance I am in error in answering my noble friend, I will write to him immediately.

Lord Renton

My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend can give us some idea of the effect of the legislation to which he has referred in reducing the number of injuries incurred, especially by young people?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, during the 1960s there were well over 2,000 injuries. Last year, 1982, which is the latest year for which I have figures, 626 people attended hospital in England, Wales and Scotland, of which 100 were serious cases.

Lord Airedale

My Lords, is the prohibition of the sale of fireworks to children under the age of 16 as ineffective as the prohibition of the sale of cigarettes to children under the age of 16?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, if there are those under the age of 16 who buy fireworks, it is not for want of trying to prevent this by the Government and also the voluntary bodies, because not only is this in legislation but every year there has been a safety publicity campaign. One of the objects of the campaign has been to remind young people under 16 that they may not buy fireworks and that they must treat fireworks, when they get into their hands, with care.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, while none of us would want to be spoilsports, and all of us appreciate that round about November-time is a happy time for young people, is it not a fact that the time taken of the very valuable services of the various fire brigades throughout the country is largely employed on the night of 5th November in a way which is not most fruitful, and is in some cases dangerous, when there are other fires for other reasons?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I agree, but let us be quite clear about one thing. It is an offence to let off a firework in the street or in a public place. We are therefore talking about people who, in many cases, are in contravention of the law. But having said that, I really feel, on behalf of the Government, that the law on this has been tied up about as tightly as it can be. I think that the right way forward, in dealing with something which, after all, is a tradition and gives pleasure to thousands, is to keep on trying by voluntary agreement to get home to people that they must treat fireworks with care.

Lord Paget of Northampton

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that, when the Chinese invented explosives, for two centuries they confined the use of explosives to fireworks? Would we not be better occupied in trying to do the same?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, the noble Lord may have a point.