On occasions, the timing of Parliamentary debates and written responses by the Government seem to be rather weird. Clearly the availability of debates regarding petitions only restarted a couple of weeks ago and so there are a significant number of old petitions that have never been discussed. One of these is this one which reached 12,000 signatories by the 22nd of October 2019 and gradually grew until the 2nd of November 2019 when it had reached 57,000 signatures. Then it shot up to 305,579 by the 5th November which was when the Government did actually respond to it and when petitions were all ended because of the General Election. The fact that the Government responded to it on Bonfire day seems bizarre even if the reason has nothing to do with the day and was purely about the date for the election. The fact that the responses from the population covered 250,000 signatures in three days clearly indicates the seriousness of this petition which even though it did not have its full six months it was the seventh largest petition during the last Government. What is perhaps even more significant is that the sixth largest one in the same period was “Ban the sale of fireworks to the public. Displays for licenced venues only.” and that received 307,897 signatures and it ran for its full six months and indeed the Government wrote about it on the 21st November 2018 and Parliament debated it on 26th November 2018. In those days the Government responded much more quickly than they seem to do so today and indeed so did Parliament. Interestingly that slightly bigger petition reached 17,000 signatures by the 3rd November 2018 and by the 9th November 2018 it had got to 260,000 signatures. Anyway the reason for writing about this current petition is that on Monday the 2nd November 2020 the following debate is due to take place.
4.30pm – Westminster Hall debate
e-petition 276425, relating to the sale of fireworks – Tonia Antoniazzi MP
The response from the Government on the 5th November 2019 was as follows:
The Government takes the matter of fireworks safety seriously. This includes protecting consumers and the public. Laws are in place to control firework availability and use.
The Government recognises that many people have strong feelings about fireworks, and the potential negative impact they can have on a community, for example, by causing distress to individuals or animals.
However, we believe that the majority of people who use fireworks do so appropriately and have a sensible and responsible attitude towards them. We consider it a minority of people who use fireworks in a dangerous, inconsiderate or anti-social manner.
The current legislative framework for fireworks aims to reduce the risks to people and disturbance to animals. Legislation ensures products being placed on the UK market meet essential safety requirements. It also controls the storage, sale and use of fireworks including where and when fireworks can be sold, when they can be set off and by whom, and sets maximum noise levels. For example, legislation allows retailers to sell consumer fireworks during the traditional firework periods of: 15th October to 10th November (inclusive); the 3 days prior to and including the first day of Chinese New Year and Diwali; and 26th December to New Year’s Eve (inclusive). But retailers may only supply fireworks outside these periods if they obtain a licence from their local authority.
In addition, enforcement mechanisms are in place to tackle those situations when fireworks are sold illegally or misused. There are a range of penalties for breaching legal requirements, including, in certain circumstances, imprisonment. The police and local authorities have powers to tackle anti-social behaviour, where it arises, caused by the misuse of fireworks.
The Government recognises the strength of feeling around the use and misuse of fireworks and has listened to the concerns raised in parliamentary debate and wider discussion. We receive representations from a wide range of stakeholders, including members of the public, organisations and charities, with wide-ranging views on what the issues are and what action they would like to see.
Following the Westminster Hall debate on 26 November 2018 regarding fireworks, the Minister with responsibility for fireworks policy and legislation in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kelly Tolhurst MP, asked the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) to develop a fact-based evidence base on the key issues that had been raised. This includes looking for data around noise and disturbance, anti-social behaviour, non-compliance, environmental impact, and the impact on humans and animals. As part of this work we are considering the findings of the Scottish Government consultation on fireworks, which was published on 4th October. We will also consider the House of Commons Petitions Committee inquiry on fireworks once that has reported.
The aim of the evidence base is to build a full picture of the data around fireworks in order for government to identify whether there is a problem, and if so, what action – if any – is appropriate. This work will also help us identify trends across fireworks seasons and determine whether, there has (for example), been an increase in fireworks being set off or an increase in firework related injuries.
It will be interesting to find out what will be discussed on Monday, given that it will come three days before Thursday when a significant number of the fireworks are due to be set off although the latest news about the lockdown will surely have an impact on that?