Fireworks Contents

1Fireworks e-petitions and the need for this inquiry

Our role

1.We oversee and act on e-petitions submitted to the UK Parliament and Government through petitions.parliament.uk. All such e-petitions that get over 10,000 signatures receive a UK Government response. We automatically consider all e-petitions that receive over 100,000 signatures for debate in Westminster Hall.1

2.E-petitions allow members of the public to bring their concerns directly to the UK Parliament. We can also act on e-petitions by asking the Government for more information and, like other Select Committees, launching inquiries, hearing from witnesses and making recommendations to Government in reports like this one. Like other Select Committees, we expect the Government to respond to our recommendations within two months.

Fireworks e-petitions

3.Fireworks have been a popular topic for e-petitions during this Parliament. Individuals and campaign groups have used the e-petitions systems to express a wide range of concerns, including about noise from fireworks affecting animals and people; misuse of fireworks and anti-social behaviour; and environmental issues.

4.When we launched our inquiry in February 2019, there were 11 e-petitions about fireworks open for signatures. They requested actions including: calls for quieter or silent fireworks; for the law to raise the age restrictions on buying fireworks; greater restrictions on use of fireworks during daytime hours; a new permit or licensing system for firework displays, including those in domestic gardens; restricting sales of fireworks to licensed gun shops; and a total ban on public sales and use, and restriction of fireworks use to professional, licensed displays only. These petitions, ordered by the number of signatures they gained, are listed below:

5.The most popular recent petition, created by Amy Cullen, called for a ban on the sale of fireworks to the public and for fireworks displays to be restricted to licensed venues only. Amy’s petition stated:

Every year fireworks are set off unnecessarily. Fireworks are a nuisance to the public. They scare animals, young children and people with a phobia. They injure thousands of people every year. They cause damage to buildings, vehicles, emergency vehicles and lastly kids are still being sold them.2

Our inquiry

6.In recent years, several petitions about fireworks have reached the 10,000-signature threshold and received a formal response from the Government. Amy Cullen’s petition far-exceeded the 100,000-signature threshold and was debated in Westminster Hall in November 2018.3 Three other petitions, all calling for greater restrictions or bans on public sales or use of fireworks, passed the 100,000-signature threshold:

In total, fireworks e-petitions had attracted around 750,000 signatures in three years.

7.Despite the number of e-petitions about fireworks and the large number of signatures they attract each year, the Government’s response to these petitions has consistently been that it believes the legislation and guidance already in place is appropriate and proportionate. For example, in her reply to the Westminster Hall debate on Amy’s petition in November 2018, Kelly Tolhurst MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, emphasised that, while she empathised with people’s concerns and understood the strong feelings:

We have legislation in place to regulate the supply, storage, possession, use and misuse of fireworks, to help to ensure public safety. These powers include powers to prosecute those who use fireworks in a dangerous or antisocial manner. Together, the restrictions set out in the Fireworks Act 2003, the Fireworks Regulations 2004 and the Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2015 provide the regulatory framework that seeks to support the public’s enjoyment of fireworks while effectively managing the risk of fireworks harming individuals, property or animals.6

8.The regulatory framework in relation to fireworks as a consumer product:

9.Despite insisting it takes the issues “very seriously”, the Government appeared to downplay petitioners’ concerns and has consistently stated that it has no plans to strengthen the law. For example, the Government’s response to Julie Doorne’s 2018 petition stated:

Although a small minority of people use fireworks in a dangerous, inconsiderate or anti-social manner, we believe that the majority use them sensibly and responsibly. [ … ] the number of injuries is low and the total number of hospital admissions caused by firework injuries has remained below 200 a year for the last 10 years.[ … ] 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.8

This has left petitioners feeling frustrated. That’s why, in response to the clear strength of public feeling, we decided to launch an inquiry.

10.We have used this inquiry to give people the opportunity to raise and explain their concerns directly with us and in more detail than an e-petition alone allows. We wanted to demonstrate through our inquiry that, where people use petitions to raise an issue, we are committed to listening and taking concerns seriously, and pressing the Government for change. As our Chair said during the debate on Amy Cullen’s petition, the alternative is that “we will have petition after petition and debate after debate until the Government start to take notice.”9

11.We published wide-ranging terms of reference and received more than 350 written submissions from members of the public, animal welfare organisations, bonfire societies and other non-professional groups who put on community fireworks displays, fireworks professionals and specialist retailers, the Association of Convenience Stores, the Health and Safety Executive and the National Fire Chiefs Council. 10

12.Our schedule of oral evidence began with evidence from a petitioner, Sue Kerr, representing the anti-fireworks campaign group, Fireworks Abatement UK, founded by Julie Doorne. We then heard an industry perspective from the British Fireworks Association, followed by oral evidence from representatives of regulatory and enforcement agencies, including the Health and Safety Executive, the Fireworks Enforcement Liaison Group, and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, alongside the Association of Convenience Stores. We completed our oral evidence schedule by hearing from the RSPCA, the National Fire Chiefs Council and the National Police Chiefs Council. A full list of witnesses is set out at the end of this Report.11

13.From the beginning and throughout, the voices of the public were central to our inquiry. We conducted our largest-ever online survey, which 42,629 people took the time to complete.12 We arranged face-to-face events to hear directly from military veterans, including those suffering with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, and people with other health conditions and disabilities. We also held an event with fireworks enthusiasts, particularly those involved in bonfire societies and other non-professional, community-run displays, and an industry body, the CBI’s Explosives Industry Group. Our colleagues in Parliament’s Education Service surveyed the views and experiences of school students aged 10–18. We’ve included summaries of all these public engagement activities in annexes to this Report.13 We’re very grateful to everyone who contributed, particularly those who related their personal experiences.

14.We very quickly became aware of the strength of feeling both for and against greater regulation of fireworks: while there are many who believe strongly that fireworks are a scourge and that radical change is needed, people in the fireworks industry and many fireworks enthusiasts feel equally strongly that the law as it stands either does, or at least could and should, provide a balance between allowing people to enjoy fireworks responsibly and protecting people, animals and property from harm.

15.We have listened carefully to people with a wide-range of views about the use of fireworks, both positive and negative. Our conclusions and recommendations are intended to try to find some common ground. We have identified clear loopholes in the current legal framework, which the Government should act swiftly to close in the interest of those who sell and enjoy fireworks and those who are concerned about their use. Above all, we believe the Government’s response to this Report will be an opportunity for it to begin to demonstrate that it’s listening too, and is willing to act to address legitimate concerns, while enabling people to enjoy fireworks responsibly.


3 You can read a transcript of the Westminster Hall debate on Amy Cullen’s petition. See HC Deb, 26 November 2018, cols 144WH

4 Debated in Westminster Hall, see HC Deb, 6 June 2016, cols 1–30WH

5 Debated in Westminster Hall, see HC Deb, 29 January 2018, cols 227–63WH

6 HC Deb, 26 November 2018, col 38WH

7 For a comprehensive summary of the regulatory framework, see Regulation of Fireworks, House of Commons Library Briefing Paper 05704, October 2018

8 Government response to e-petition 201947, Change the laws governing the use of fireworks to include a ban on public use

9 HC Deb, 26 November 2018, col 6WH

10 You can read the full terms of reference on our website: https://www.parliament.uk/petitions-committee.

11 You can read the full terms of reference on our website: https://www.parliament.uk/petitions-committee.

12 See Annex A: Summary of survey results

13 See Annexes B to E




Published: 5 November 2019