Fireworks Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

The practical implications of a ban on public sales and use

1.We have listened carefully to concerns about banning public sales and use of fireworks. There are valid concerns about the likely effects on community groups and their local fund-raising efforts. For some groups, for example in Sussex, community-run, non-professional displays form an important part of an area’s unique culture and identity. There are also genuine concerns about the likely ineffectiveness of a ban, including some evidence from overseas that a ban could have unintended and counter-productive consequences for public safety. A ban on public sales would have a substantial economic effect, which would be most keenly felt by people who have built their livelihoods on the fireworks industry. (Paragraph 23)

2.While people who want to ban the public from buying and using fireworks have valid concerns that must be addressed, we cannot support a ban before other, less drastic but potentially more effective, options have been fully explored. (Paragraph 24)

Assessing the extent of problems and empowering effective local responses

3.Loud and high-pitched noises can adversely affect a large proportion of animals, whose hearing is often much more sensitive than humans’. They can cause substantial distress and lead to longer-term phobias and behavioural issues. In the light of this evidence, we believe the decibel level limit of consumer fireworks needs to be looked at again, with animal welfare in mind. We recommend the Government lead a review, working with animal welfare experts and the fireworks industry, of the effects of fireworks noise on animal welfare, with a view to setting a workable reduced maximum decibel limit which would diminish the risks to animal health.Loud and high-pitched noises can adversely affect a large proportion of animals, whose hearing is often much more sensitive than humans’. They can cause substantial distress and lead to longer-term phobias and behavioural issues. In the light of this evidence, we believe the decibel level limit of consumer fireworks needs to be looked at again, with animal welfare in mind. We recommend the Government lead a review, working with animal welfare experts and the fireworks industry, of the effects of fireworks noise on animal welfare, with a view to setting a workable reduced maximum decibel limit which would diminish the risks to animal health. (Paragraph 33)

4.The current law does not offer people and animals enough protection from frequent disturbance by fireworks, particularly where there are numerous public and domestic displays around the traditional and religious dates and a growing number of displays at other celebratory events like birthdays and weddings. We believe local authorities should be empowered to limit the number of displays in their areas in these circumstances. We recommend the Government work with local authorities to identify a best practice approach to a revenue-neutral, mandatory permit system for fireworks displays, where local evidence suggests this is necessary to protect the community. The Government should work with a local authority to pilot the approach before the end of 2020, with a view to legislating to empower all local authorities to establish mandatory permit schemes where they deem it necessary.The current law does not offer people and animals enough protection from frequent disturbance by fireworks, particularly where there are numerous public and domestic displays around the traditional and religious dates and a growing number of displays at other celebratory events like birthdays and weddings. We believe local authorities should be empowered to limit the number of displays in their areas in these circumstances. We recommend the Government work with local authorities to identify a best practice approach to a revenue-neutral, mandatory permit system for fireworks displays, where local evidence suggests this is necessary to protect the community. The Government should work with a local authority to pilot the approach before the end of 2020, with a view to legislating to empower all local authorities to establish mandatory permit schemes where they deem it necessary. (Paragraph 41)

5.Any attack on emergency services workers is entirely unacceptable. It’s therefore hugely worrying that these attacks appear to be on the increase, and we welcome recent measures set out in the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 to tackle the broader issue. There is evidence that attacks involving fireworks make up a significant proportion of these incidents in some parts of the country, but we are concerned they are not being consistently recorded and published. Without complete and accurate data, it is not possible to understand the extent of the problem or take steps to rectify it through properly informed local decisions. We recommend the Government work with emergency services across the country to ensure that such incidents involving fireworks are specifically and consistently recorded across all local emergency services, and the data made publicly available.Any attack on emergency services workers is entirely unacceptable. It’s therefore hugely worrying that these attacks appear to be on the increase, and we welcome recent measures set out in the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 to tackle the broader issue. There is evidence that attacks involving fireworks make up a significant proportion of these incidents in some parts of the country, but we are concerned they are not being consistently recorded and published. Without complete and accurate data, it is not possible to understand the extent of the problem or take steps to rectify it through properly informed local decisions. We recommend the Government work with emergency services across the country to ensure that such incidents involving fireworks are specifically and consistently recorded across all local emergency services, and the data made publicly available. (Paragraph 46)

6.Fireworks are inherently transient, and, once they have been used, there may be little evidence of where or when they were set off. It’s therefore inevitable that any rule about who can set off fireworks, and where and when they can be used, will be difficult to enforce. People are aware of this, including those who misuse fireworks and those for whom fireworks cause significant problems. It is likely that this is suppressing the number of complaints, meaning the real level of concern is under-reported. (Paragraph 56)

7.We believe the first step towards addressing people’s valid concerns about misuse of fireworks should be improving the collection and publication of data about the types and extent of problems associated with fireworks. While the challenges of enforcement are widely acknowledged, people must be enabled, and encouraged, to make their concerns known. It must be made clear to people how and to whom to report concerns. We recommend the Government work with local authorities and police and fire services to review the systems in place for people to report concerns about misuse of fireworks, including breaches of the night-time curfew, use of fireworks in inappropriately small domestic gardens and other anti-social behaviour, with a view to establishing a consistent approach to data collection and publication. Local authorities must have systems in place to record incidents of concern to their residents. It is vital that local areas collect this information to inform local responses. We expect the Government to issue guidance to this effect before October 2020.We believe the first step towards addressing people’s valid concerns about misuse of fireworks should be improving the collection and publication of data about the types and extent of problems associated with fireworks. While the challenges of enforcement are widely acknowledged, people must be enabled, and encouraged, to make their concerns known. It must be made clear to people how and to whom to report concerns. We recommend the Government work with local authorities and police and fire services to review the systems in place for people to report concerns about misuse of fireworks, including breaches of the night-time curfew, use of fireworks in inappropriately small domestic gardens and other anti-social behaviour, with a view to establishing a consistent approach to data collection and publication. Local authorities must have systems in place to record incidents of concern to their residents. It is vital that local areas collect this information to inform local responses. We expect the Government to issue guidance to this effect before October 2020. (Paragraph 57)

Sales, packaging and public awareness

8.We are concerned about reports of illegal sales of fireworks online, particularly over social media. It’s imperative that consumer fireworks are only sold to the public through legitimate retailers with the appropriate licences and staff with the appropriate level of training to advise customers about safe and responsible use. It appears local authority Trading Standards teams lack the necessary skills and resources to address illegal online sales effectively. We recommend the Government conduct a review of online sales of fireworks, with a particular focus on sales via social media, with a view to establishing a national, cross-agency strategy to tackle the problem. The strategy should include measures to exert pressure on social media companies to identify and remove posts advertising unlicensed or illegal fireworks for sale on their platforms. We recommended this review be conducted, and a strategy published, before October 2020.We are concerned about reports of illegal sales of fireworks online, particularly over social media. It’s imperative that consumer fireworks are only sold to the public through legitimate retailers with the appropriate licences and staff with the appropriate level of training to advise customers about safe and responsible use. It appears local authority Trading Standards teams lack the necessary skills and resources to address illegal online sales effectively. We recommend the Government conduct a review of online sales of fireworks, with a particular focus on sales via social media, with a view to establishing a national, cross-agency strategy to tackle the problem. The strategy should include measures to exert pressure on social media companies to identify and remove posts advertising unlicensed or illegal fireworks for sale on their platforms. We recommended this review be conducted, and a strategy published, before October 2020. (Paragraph 63)

9.We’re concerned that the 5kg storage rule is open to misinterpretation, which may have the result of unlicensed retailers selling consumer fireworks all year round. We believe this is clearly against the spirit and intention of the Regulations and may be contributing to increased misuse of fireworks, where they are being sold by people without the proper licence or training. We recommend the Government take action as soon as possible, and at the latest by April 2020, to clarify the 5kg storage rule by amending the relevant Regulations to explicitly state it applies to low hazard category F1 fireworks only.We’re concerned that the 5kg storage rule is open to misinterpretation, which may have the result of unlicensed retailers selling consumer fireworks all year round. We believe this is clearly against the spirit and intention of the Regulations and may be contributing to increased misuse of fireworks, where they are being sold by people without the proper licence or training. We recommend the Government take action as soon as possible, and at the latest by April 2020, to clarify the 5kg storage rule by amending the relevant Regulations to explicitly state it applies to low hazard category F1 fireworks only. (Paragraph 69)

10.We accept that there is no evidence of a widespread problem with underage sales of fireworks from legitimate retailers. However, evidence from the fireworks industry and regulatory bodies did not entirely allay our concerns about packaging which may appeal to children. We remain concerned that where fireworks are packaged in this way, it creates a risk that children may be tempted to play or tamper with potentially dangerous products stored in the home. We recommend the Government take steps to ensure that these age-restricted products are not packaged in a way which is designed to appeal to children and that it introduce appropriate Regulations as soon as possible, and at the latest by November 2020.We accept that there is no evidence of a widespread problem with underage sales of fireworks from legitimate retailers. However, evidence from the fireworks industry and regulatory bodies did not entirely allay our concerns about packaging which may appeal to children. We remain concerned that where fireworks are packaged in this way, it creates a risk that children may be tempted to play or tamper with potentially dangerous products stored in the home. We recommend the Government take steps to ensure that these age-restricted products are not packaged in a way which is designed to appeal to children and that it introduce appropriate Regulations as soon as possible, and at the latest by November 2020. (Paragraph 74)

11.There is very clear evidence that loud unexpected noise from fireworks has severe and distressing effects on people with a range of health conditions and disabilities, including military veterans and others suffering with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), children with autistic spectrum disorders and people with hyperacusis and other hearing conditions. It’s not good enough for the Government to repeatedly claim that the law protects these people from harm. It doesn’t. We agree with military veterans and people with health conditions and disabilities that inconsiderate and irresponsible use of fireworks needs to be considered as socially unacceptable as drink driving. If people are going to use fireworks, they must let their neighbours know in advance, so that people can take steps to protect themselves if they need to. We recommend the Government fund and coordinate a major, national awareness campaign on the responsible use of fireworks to get this message across to the public. The campaign should run across national mainstream and social media, and in all schools, from October 2020 and annually thereafter and should include explicit information on the impact which fireworks can have on veterans and those with PTSD.There is very clear evidence that loud unexpected noise from fireworks has severe and distressing effects on people with a range of health conditions and disabilities, including military veterans and others suffering with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), children with autistic spectrum disorders and people with hyperacusis and other hearing conditions. It’s not good enough for the Government to repeatedly claim that the law protects these people from harm. It doesn’t. We agree with military veterans and people with health conditions and disabilities that inconsiderate and irresponsible use of fireworks needs to be considered as socially unacceptable as drink driving. If people are going to use fireworks, they must let their neighbours know in advance, so that people can take steps to protect themselves if they need to. We recommend the Government fund and coordinate a major, national awareness campaign on the responsible use of fireworks to get this message across to the public. The campaign should run across national mainstream and social media, and in all schools, from October 2020 and annually thereafter and should include explicit information on the impact which fireworks can have on veterans and those with PTSD. (Paragraph 78)





Published: 5 November 2019