Loud bangs and bright lights can cause distress to animals and children, and the noise from fireworks can also be very upsetting for people who suffer from various conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder. I am also concerned about the number of injuries related to fireworks. I agree with you that it is time to deal with the misuse of fireworks.
I know that there appears to have been an enormous increase in the number of nights on which fireworks are being set off in recent years. This is not because they were legally restricted in the past, it is simply that people have more money to spend on fireworks than they had twenty years ago, and the number of situations in which people decide to use fireworks is far greater – birthdays, Halloween, New Year, or just at parties or events.
Since January 2005, fireworks can only be sold to the public by licensed traders. However, fireworks are often sold by unlicensed traders for Chinese New Year and the preceding three days, Diwali and the preceding three days, Bonfire Night celebrations and for New Year. Under the Fireworks Regulations 2004, it is an offence to use fireworks after 11pm and before 7am without permission, except on permitted fireworks nights, when the times are extended. The regulations also allow fireworks use by a person who is employed by a local authority and who uses the fireworks for the purposes of putting on a display which has been permitted by the local authority, or for a national public celebration. The Government has stated that it has no plans to review the existing legislation. It argues that restrictions on the general public’s use of fireworks, and permitted noise levels, already exist and that the majority of people enjoy fireworks sensibly and in accordance with the current restrictions.
However, it is 13 years since the existing legislation was introduced and I believe it is right that we should look at it again and consider whether it is working. Over 108,000 people have signed a parliamentary petition on fireworks and this problem will be debated in Parliament on 29 January 2018.
I believe we need to ensure that the existing legislation is monitored and enforced. I am therefore concerned about cuts to trading standards departments across the country and the impact this may have on their ability to monitor the illegal sale of fireworks. Trading standards organisations should have the resources to deal with the illegal trade in fireworks. I also believe that if existing legislation is combined with a stronger public information campaign, it may be possible to ensure fireworks are used responsibly and safely without instilling fear and distress in animals and people. I might be inclined to support moves to limit the use of fireworks to licensed events only, and to end the sale of fireworks to the general public altogether, but I do not think there is any probability of that being proposed at this stage.