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Mr. Chope: I beg to move amendment No. 62, in page 8, line 15, leave out subsection (3).

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this, it will be convenient to take Government amendment No. 2.

Mr. Chope: This is a probing amendment, because this is the first chance that any hon. Member has had to find out what subsection (3) is about and why the Minister wants to keep it in the Bill. That is why I tabled the amendment and I look forward to hearing her response.

Miss Melanie Johnson: I believe that I can help the hon. Gentleman considerably. The amendment would

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remove the limit on the disclosure of information under the fireworks regulations. The limit makes sense. It is imposed under the Enterprise Act 2002 and it means that only relevant parties will have access to certain information gained in relation to activities carried out under the Fireworks Bill and the subsequent regulations. It could be commercially damaging if anybody was able to demand that information be disclosed to him or her, and that is why the limitation is in place.

Mr. Chope: I thought that I would be easily satisfied, but the Minister is introducing a secrecy clause to prevent people from gaining access to information.

Miss Johnson: Obviously, freedom of information legislation covers various aspects of disclosure, but the limit refers to information that might be commercially damaging, as I mentioned.

Mr. Chope: Can the Minister assure the House that the limit will be used only to withhold information that would be commercially damaging?

Miss Johnson: I believe that that is its principal purpose. I am not sure that I can give the hon. Gentleman a cast-iron guarantee, but I can give him as close to it as I can get that it is my belief that the limit covers only commercial information. I am happy to write to the hon. Gentleman further on the issue, if that would be helpful.

Mr. Chope: Indeed, it would, and I am grateful to the Minister for that response. I hope that the letter she sends me will make it clear that the limit will be restricted to commercial considerations. The Minister has an amendment in the same group—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman must advise me whether he wishes to withdraw his amendment, before I invite the Minister to put her amendment formally.

Mr. Chope: I thought that that Minister had not yet introduced her amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: That was done as part of her earlier contribution. The amendment has yet to be made formally. I need to know first whether the hon. Gentleman intends to proceed with his amendment.

Mr. Chope: No, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


Repeals and Revocation

Amendment made: No. 2, in page 10, line 15, at end insert—
'Road Traffic Act 1974 (c. 50) Section 18.'.
[Miss Melanie Johnson.]

Order for Third Reading read.

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1.42 pm

Mr. Tynan: I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I wish to thank everyone for the consensual nature of the debate on Report. When I saw that the debate was to take place on Friday 13 June, I was deeply concerned that yet another Fireworks Bill would not get through Third Reading. I wish to thank everyone who attended and participated in the debate. It seemed like a long time between Second and Third Readings, but circumstances dictated the delay.

The safe passage of a meaningful Bill on the misuse of fireworks is long overdue. It is essential to have a proper debate on issues that are important not only to Members of Parliament but to the electorate in general. The choice is between passing the Bill and achieving a proper fireworks regime, or allowing continual misuse and abuse of fireworks. I am delighted that we have reached Third Reading, and I hope that the Bill will overcome this hurdle, too.

This is an enabling Bill. Concerns have been expressed about the draconian provisions that could be introduced, but I believe that the guarantee of consultation with all interested parties is a sufficient safeguard. The Bill cedes only suitable powers to the Government and serves to approach the issues comprehensively.

A number of recent events have shown that the fireworks issue remains topical. A professional footballer was recently sentenced to 100 hours of community service and ordered to pay compensation for disfiguring a teenager with an illegal firework. More disturbing events have occurred in Liverpool. Firefighters were called to a fire in a toy warehouse in Walton. The fire then spread to a neighbouring warehouse that was being used to store fireworks illegally. The roof was removed by the resulting blast, forcing firefighters to retire to a safe distance before they could eventually tackle the blaze. Even more disturbingly, those responsible for the illegal storage have not yet been traced.

I have promised to be brief, because I understand that other Bills are awaiting safe passage through the House. I shall conclude my Third Reading speech on that note. This is not a killjoy Bill. It is a serious attempt to deal with the serious concerns of our constituents and of Members of the House. I trust that all hon. Members will support the Bill and I commend it to the House.

1.45 pm

Mr. Robathan: I am glad to have heard what the hon. Gentleman said, and I congratulate him again on introducing the Bill. I am delighted that it is going from this House with a fair wind. We have always said that we supported the spirit of the Bill, although, if I am honest, we remain concerned about the Henry VIII provisions. No one likes giving the Government—and, perhaps more to the point, future Governments way down the line—powers that will not come back to the House, and they are indeed draconian powers.

The discussion that we have had today, to which my hon. Friends the Members for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) and for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) have contributed, has been helpful. Some of the amendments

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that have been accepted were also helpful. The problem with private Members' Bills is that they sometimes do not have all the support that they might, although the present Bill has of course been supported by the Government. I wish the Bill well, and look forward to its successful passage through the House of Lords.

1.46 pm

Dr. Cable: I would simply like to add a few words of support for the Bill and to congratulate the hon. Member for Hamilton, South (Mr. Tynan). He has not had to intervene very often today, but he has helped the Bill along in a way that I think most of us respected.

At the core of the Bill is a dilemma: in many cases, fireworks give innocent pleasure, yet they can equally be associated with antisocial behaviour, noise and disruption. It is a question of getting the balance right. I was reminded of this on Monday evening, at the party to celebrate the 20th anniversary of our party leader's arrival at the House of Commons. The party was held in a big garden in Harrow, and it was rounded off by a firework display—the full works. Everyone thought it a thoroughly splendid occasion, but as we walked down the drive afterwards, burglar alarms were going off all over the place and dogs were howling. No doubt there were plenty of crying babies as well. So we saw at first hand both the positive and negative sides of the situation. That rather reinforced my view that the Bill is a useful corrective.

I am very supportive of the Bill. I think that we all recognise the two principal reasons for it. One involves major legislative tidying up; the schedule shows that the hon. Gentleman is bringing together seven existing pieces of legislation and removing one past Act. The other is the importance of sending a clear signal to animal lovers and elderly people who are concerned about noise. Those are positive reasons.

Some concerns—both of commission and omission—have been registered in relation to the Bill this morning. The worry on the commission side is that, in certain circumstances, the provisions could lead to rather bureaucratic and heavy-handed regulation. That needs some attention in the other place. On the omission side, the key controversy over the decibel limit was not addressed in the Bill, although it was addressed from the Floor by the hon. Member for Hamilton, South. That is the key issue for hon. Members on both sides of the debate, but the limit has not been specified.

The other issue is enforcement. The success of this legislation will ultimately depend on whether sufficient numbers of trading standards officers and environmental health officers who have been sufficiently well briefed will be able to enforce the regulations at local level. That is what will determine whether the legislation will work. With those qualifications, I am very happy to support the Bill and to congratulate the hon. Member for Hamilton, South on having taken it so far.

1.49 pm

Mr. Leigh: I congratulate the hon. Member for Hamilton, South (Mr. Tynan). Private Members' Bills are delicate flowers, and they can be trampled underfoot in the parliamentary rush, but we are delivering this Bill to the hon. Gentleman with time to spare. We are

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grateful to him for the concessions that he has made today to make that possible. In particular, we are grateful to him for allowing us to incorporate the provision that the Bill will not apply to class 1 and class 2 fireworks, which are the ones that people use in their private homes and gardens. Above all, we have met the requirements of the fireworks industry, a reputable industry providing employment and much enjoyment. Its one fear was that when the Bill was enacted there would be no likelihood of the decibel limit being reduced from 120 to 95. That would have made it impossible to produce fireworks as we have known them throughout our lives.

We have achieved our aims. An amendment will be moved in the other place. The Minister made clear that she did not object to the principle, but feared that dealing with the amendment would delay the Bill's progress. That will not happen. The Bill will, I am sure, become law, and it will be a better Act as a result of the work we have done this morning.

1.50 pm

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