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Mr. Melanie Leigh: I very much hope that when the Minister sums up, she will make it absolutely clear to the House that she does not intend to insist on introducing regulations to require training. As my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) said, some people make it their business to provide public fireworks displays—incidentally, it is quite commonly retired or practising vicars who enjoy doing it; I do not know why. They are very responsible people. There is no evidence whatever that they are causing death or injury to themselves or anyone else. As my hon. Friend said, the Government's own regulatory impact assessment says in paragraph 5.4:

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Training takes up people's time, and it is not necessary. When my hon. Friend and I were discussing the Bill in the past two days, we both felt that it was important to drive this point home, and that we really did want an assurance from the Minister that she would not regulate to require training. If the hon. Lady will give us that assurance now, we shall be satisfied.

Miss Melanie Johnson: Training is very important in some of these contexts. We would be neglecting our responsibilities in the House if we did not support the provision of training courses. The elimination of the entire clause, as proposed in the amendment, would leave no provision in the Bill to ensure safe and professional practice in the fireworks display industry. Displays do of course provide a safe way for people to watch and enjoy fireworks, but one reason why that is so is that people are highly trained and qualified to run such displays.

Mr. Chope: So what is the purpose of the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974?

Miss Johnson: That is a very general question to which I cannot respond in like terms.

We would not wish to leave the supply of professional fireworks to those with little knowledge of their product. With products to whose supply and use a number of risks are attached, it is important that the Government should be able to ensure that the aims that we all agree are important under clause 2(1) and (3) are upheld and strengthened. An officially organised training course would ensure high standards while excluding the novice from such enterprises.

I cannot comment on the relationship of this Bill with the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act because that is a large piece of legislation. I am happy to undertake to write to him, but I think it is very important that we provide for training. That training helps to ensure that people who handle the equivalent of explosives and set up displays and use or supply the product are appropriately qualified.

Mr. Leigh: Of course people who run displays must be properly trained and do their job; no one is denying that. But the Minister is not suggesting, is she, that there is any lack of training at the moment? Is she saying that there are cowboys, not properly trained, who are moving around the country causing death or injury to people? If she is saying that, that entirely contradicts her own regulatory impact assessment. The training is taking place. It works. All that we want to hear from the Minister today is that she will not impose a set of new regulations requiring new training, which is plainly not necessary.

Miss Johnson: Of course plenty of training is being done and some of that works well, and there are some highly professional people setting up displays; no one would question that. However, it would be a rash person who would assert that every such person had done everything that should be done, and had been properly trained. There are always cowboys out there.

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If the hon. Gentleman is seeking my assurance that we are not thinking of some radically bureaucratic system to impose on all those dealing with fireworks training of a very different character from that envisaged at present, I am sure that I can give him that assurance. However, the amendment would delete the clause full stop, and many hon. Members, including myself, find that unacceptable.

Mr. Chope: I am disappointed in the Minister's response. I read from the regulatory impact assessment—if the hon. Lady she had not read it before, I hope that she was listening—and paragraph 5.5 makes it clear:

It also says that duties under the existing law

If operators' staff are not competent or properly trained, the operators are in breach of existing legislation—the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974. The more the House tries to duplicate general legislation such as that Act, the more we undermine the responsibility we believe people should take for organising effective health and safety at work.

The issue is close to my heart because I served on the Health and Safety Commission for so long. The Health and Safety and Work, etc. Act 1974 has stood the test of time, but it will not continue to stand the test of time if people who operate within its bounds are told that there must be duplication to comply with a fresh lot of regulations.

Mr. Robathan: I raised training courses on Second Reading. I am worried that people might be compelled to go on training courses that are frankly unnecessary, so what my hon. Friend says is broadly right.

Mr. Chope: I am grateful for the endorsement of my hon. Friend and the official Opposition. What he and I have said is in line with what my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) said on Second Reading:

That is our position and it is why I shall press the amendment to a Division.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 9, Noes 78.

Division No. 231
[1:27 pm


Baron, John (Billericay)
Field, Mark (Cities of London & Westminster)
Forth, rh Eric
Grayling, Chris
Mercer, Patrick
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Hugh (Faversham & M-Kent)
Walter, Robert

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Christopher Chope and
Mr. Edward Leigh


Adams, Irene (Paisley N)
Allan, Richard
Allen, Graham
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Barnes, Harry
Barrett, John
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Cairns, David
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Connarty, Michael
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)
Dobson, rh Frank
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Gale, Roger (N Thanet)
Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)
Gardiner, Barry
Gerrard, Neil
Gilroy, Linda
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W & Abingdon)
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Holmes, Paul
Hood, Jimmy (Clydesdale)
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Keetch, Paul
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Linton, Martin
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McNulty, Tony
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mallaber, Judy
Moffatt, Laura
Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Prosser, Gwyn
Quin, rh Joyce
Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)
Sheridan, Jim
Spellar, rh John
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Truswell, Paul
Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Ward, Claire
Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Weir, Michael
White, Brian
Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Stephen McCabe and
Mr. Andrew Dismore

Question accordingly negatived.

13 Jun 2003 : Column 983

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Before we proceed, may I remind the Tellers that the correct procedure is that, on reaching the Table, they should bow again to the Chair.

Clause 12

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