Previous SectionIndexHome Page

12.45 pm

I have primarily been concerned with protecting the traditional private family firework display in people's gardens. I look forward to hearing what the Minister and the promoter say about amendment No. 64.

13 Jun 2003 : Column 973

Perhaps it is possible to obtain class 3 fireworks for a private garden display. I do not know what the legal situation is on that or what the supply situation would be. It may be that we have dealt with that issue.

The more substantial point that I want to raise relates to amendment No. 67. I do not know what the technical objection may be, but I hope that the Minister reassures me about the issues that it raises. As well as protecting the private traditional display with one's family, I want to avoid the situation in which people can let off fireworks only around 5 November. I would not approve of that. I do not say that because I am a Catholic and would object to the fact that fireworks could be used only to celebrate the gunpowder plot, but because it raises an interesting point. We live in a varied society with many religious groups and types of people. I do not understand why we should gradually move bit by bit—as we are doing as a result of a ratchet-type effect—to let off fireworks only at that time of year. There is no reason why people should not be allowed—encouraged even—to let off fireworks around new year.

We also have to recognise that there are other religious festivals, such as Hindu and Muslim festivals. A Conservative colleague came up to me in the corridor yesterday and said, "I don't know what you're doing about this Bill. The fact is I get loads of letters from people objecting to the fact that we get fireworks at all times of the year. They're used to celebrate Hindu festivals and some of my constituents don't like it." But that is the country we live in. If someone wants to celebrate a Hindu festival with fireworks, that might not be on 5 November. In the spirit of a liberal multicultural country, we should recognise people's ability to let off fireworks when they want to.

Amendment No. 67 might not be necessary. I hope that the Minister will take the opportunity to make it clear that we recognise that people in our society will want to let off fireworks at different times of the year. I am not sure that many people would want to let them off on Bastille day, but if they want to, let them. There is, after all, an ever-growing French community. If it wants to let off fireworks, why not? Why should the ever-growing American community not let off fireworks on independence day? We do not want to be more and more restrictive. We have a voluntary agreement that makes it difficult for members of the public to obtain fireworks except around the period of 5 November and the new year. If the Minister reassures me on that, I shall be very happy.

Mr. Tynan: The issue is important. In my constituency it is simple to purchase fireworks all year round. That is the fact of the matter and I am sure that it happens in many constituencies. However, when I formulated the ideas behind the Bill I was conscious that we should not disadvantage other multicultural groups. As a member of one of them, I recognise their value. I spoke to Hindu people about what could be done. That is why we suggest a two-tier licensing system that will give those who want to celebrate major religious or national festivals the opportunity to buy fireworks. I raised the matter on Second Reading; I recognise the fact that we live in a multicultural society, and the Bill

13 Jun 2003 : Column 974

takes account of the points that have been made. I ask the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) to withdraw his amendment.

Miss Melanie Johnson: Amendments Nos. 52 and 53 would remove the prohibition on the supply of fireworks, and limit prohibition simply to the use of fireworks, and my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton, South (Mr. Tynan) has explained why that is not desirable. There are occasions on which the prohibition on supply is crucial, and we may want to consider prohibiting supply at certain times of day, in certain places or in certain circumstances. The amendments would therefore take a retrograde step because we would lose some of our ability to control the supply of fireworks. Conservative Members agree with us about the importance of that control, so I hope that they will not feel the need to press the amendments.

Amendment No. 55 is too prescriptive. However, it was tabled before our discussions earlier this morning, and I hope that Conservative Members will recognise that the flexibility in the Bill is necessary so that we can consider who should be excepted from certain of the prohibitions imposed by any regulations made under the Bill.

I turn now to amendment No. 60 on the licensing of suppliers. Many people, including consumers, enforcement officers, firework companies and many hon. Members feel that licensing is a suitable way further to control the availability of fireworks entering the market. The provisions are important because the Bill will allow local authorities to refuse and revoke licences to retailers who have previously breached conditions such as those relating to storage or supply to children.

Mr. Baron: As I said, I fully support the Bill and, in particular, the idea of proper licensing and control of the sale of fireworks to the public, but may I tease out of the Minister any suggestions that the Government may have for addressing the issue that licensing will not solve all the problems? One could stockpile fireworks, for example. Although the Bill is helpful, and I support it, I would be grateful for a little clarification from the Minister.

Miss Johnson: We are considering the issue carefully to make sure that the provisions are effective but not overly bureaucratic or burdensome for retailers. Where possible, we are trying to link them with revision of the regulations on the manufacture and storage of explosives, which obviously relate to the hon. Gentleman's point about storage. Those regulations are currently under review by the Health and Safety Executive, so there will be an opportunity to tackle that.

Amendment No. 61 is very similar to amendment No. 55, so I need say nothing further on that. Turning to amendment No. 64, I think that the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) accepts that things have changed since he tabled the amendment. It would remove our ability to create a watershed for residential use, and we would all regret that. In any event, the hon. Gentleman indicated that he would not press the amendment, and I hope that he will not.

13 Jun 2003 : Column 975

Amendment No. 67 is rather vague and, therefore, unhelpful. It may be difficult to define "interference". We entirely share the hon. Gentleman's aspiration that the buying and selling of fireworks is not confined to the period around 5 November.

The amendment is not necessary because under clause 2(4) the Secretary of State is required to consult organisations and other people considered to have interests and to be affected by the Bill. Additionally, the Government are obliged in the regulatory impact assessment to consult extensively members of particular minorities when drawing up regulations, and we shall obviously ensure that all sections of the community are represented. I hope that that reassures the hon. Member for Gainsborough, whose concerns are similar to ours.

Mr. Chope: In the light of the Minister's explanation, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5

Prohibition of Supply Etc. of Certain Fireworks

Amendment made: No. 66, in page 3, line 28, at end insert—

'( ) Subsections (1) and (2) shall not apply to class I and class II fireworks.'.—[Miss Melanie Johnson.]

Clause 6

Public Fireworks Displays

Mr. Chope: I beg to move amendment No. 56, in page 4, line 3 [Clause 6], at end insert—

'( ) advanced notification of the time and place of the display has been given to the owners or recipients of land adjoining the site of the display'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 57, in page 4, line 9, leave out paragraph (c).

No. 58, in page 4, line 29, at end insert—

'( ) Nothing in this section shall apply to a display from which the public are excluded notwithstanding that it may be witnessed by the public.'.

No. 59, in page 4, line 29, at end insert—

'( ) Nothing in this section shall apply to a display which does not include the use of fireworks under category 4 of the British Standard Specification relating to fireworks published on 30 November 1988 (BS 7114) or any British Standard Specification replacing it.'.

1 pm

Mr. Chope: These amendments deal with the issue of public displays. My hon. Friends may think that amendment No. 56 is far too regulatory and restrictive, as it requires that advance notification of the time and place of a display be given to the owners or occupiers of land adjoining the site of the display. The amendment uses the word "recipients" instead of "occupiers", but I am sure that that is a typo.

A big mischief results from the antisocial use of fireworks when, for example, people let them off without thinking about their neighbours—that is even more true when there is a large, organised display. If they knew

13 Jun 2003 : Column 976

that fireworks were going to be let off, dog owners such as myself could put their dog inside and people who have a horse or pony, as my daughter has, could take appropriate precautions. Obviously, it is difficult to take such precautions if one does not know that an event is taking place. In our village, somebody's horse eventually died, I think, from injuries caused by problems with fireworks. Those problems could easily have been overcome if the person organising the firework display had thought of notifying their neighbours. That is the thinking behind the amendment.

Turning briefly to amendment No. 58, the Bill does not cover displays that are not public. However, I am concerned that that may be interpreted as covering displays that may be witnessed by the public. Lots of members of the public, for example, may not be inside the enclosure. That is a nightmare for people organising fireworks displays, as they need income from paying visitors to pay for the fireworks. However, people sometimes find vantage points nearby and enjoy the whole event for free. If the public witness an essentially private fireworks display, that should not fall foul of the regulations.

Amendment No.59 would restrict the application of the clause to fireworks displays that use fireworks under category 4, which we recognise as big public displays. Again, it is a reasonable measure to clarify, define and limit the application of the clause.

Next Section

IndexHome Page