Clwyd South MP Susan Elan Jones led a debate this week over an e-petition signed by 111,000 people calling for a change in the laws governing the use of fireworks – including a ban on public use.
The online petition read: “Fireworks cause alarm, distress and anxiety to many people and animals. We call on the Secretary of State to make appropriate provision to secure that the risk of public use is the minimum that is compatible with fireworks being used, as stated in Fireworks Act 2003 sect 2.”
Susan Elan Jones MP introduced the debate in a humorous manner, stating: “I discovered that a past Member of the House of the Lords from my area was the first peer to smoke in the House of Lords. I assure you, Mr Walker, and other Members present that I have no plans to become the first Member of either House of Parliament to light a firework in the course of the debate, not even a sparkler.”
Describing the petition as a ‘serious one’, she started by explaining how she enjoyed the product prior to citing her concerns: “I like fireworks. I mean, I really like fireworks, and I grew up with little, informal community firework displays on bonfire night. We had rockets, Roman candles, Catherine wheels, snowflakes and traffic lights, as well as those magical sparklers to scribble away with in the night air. There was the big bonfire in which the jacket potatoes were cooked, and there was hot soup, cakes and sweets, and of course a crowd of people.”
Later, the MP cited a serious injury after a stray flare ignited a young girl’s scarf, adding: ““My thoughts are, and always will be, that fireworks can be devastatingly dangerous even when used safely and as such should only be allowed at organised displays”.”
Other arguments in support of the petition were also voiced by the MP, including pointing out: “Fireworks can be an unwelcome trigger for upsetting and frightening memories of conflict. The veterans’ charity, Shoulder to Soldier, runs a campaign to raise awareness of the negative effect that random fireworks can have on veterans who live with PTSD.”
Research was also cited for domestic animals, with an RSPCA report saying 45% of dog owners questioned said their dogs ‘showed fearful behaviour when it heard fireworks’, with the Clwyd South MP adding: “Let us not forget farm animals.
“Farm animals and livestock can also suffer from distress injury. That can mean livestock bolting in distress, which may cause danger to humans and vehicles if the livestock are near a public highway.
“Fowl have been known to smother each other in their attempts to hide from the noise in their environment. Animals have been known to go into premature labour and lose their offspring.”
The near three hour debate (video below) was concluded with a response from The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Andrew Griffiths, who was making his Westminster Hall debate debut: “Members have made some compelling speeches. No one could fail to be moved by the tragic stories we have heard.
“The honourable Member for Derby North described somebody seeing their house destroyed as a result of fireworks. We have heard some really distressing and disturbing anecdotes about animals, including pets, horses, cows and other livestock, suffering not just distress but death from the misuse of fireworks.”
“One of the first things I did when I became the Minister with responsibility for consumer protection was to announce on 21st of January the creation of the Office for Product Safety and Standards.
“This is a new body that will receive some £12 million a year in central Government funding to ensure that we have access to information nationally and to support local authorities in their work.
“The new office will work with key stakeholders and enforcing authorities to review the guidance materials available on the safe and responsible use of fireworks. It will also provide an intelligence-handling function to improve the information we have. It will also examine the individual safety of particular fireworks and of other products on sale.”
The more public response to the petition on the epetitions site is more blunt, stating: “Government takes the issue of firework safety very seriously. There is legislation in place that controls the sale, use and misuse of fireworks; we have no plans to extend this further.”
“The Government believes that the current regulations strike the right balance between the enjoyment of fireworks by the public and restricting the sale and use of fireworks for public safety reasons.”