Report of the Service Director, Economy, Innovation and Growth
The Committee received a report to provide an update on the publication by the House of Commons Petitions Committee.
The Committee were advised that fireworks have been a popular topic for e-petitions during the previous Parliament. Individuals and campaign groups used the e-petitions system to express a wide range of concerns, including noise from fireworks having serious detrimental effects on people and animals; misuse of fireworks and anti-social behaviour blighting local communities and environmental issues.
The Petitions Committee scheduled three debates in Parliament on petitions relating to fireworks that had each gained more than 100,000 signatures. In total, petitions calling for tighter restrictions on he sale and use of fireworks by the general public have attracted around 750,000 signatures in three years. Whilst the Government’s responses to these petitions, and Ministers’ replies to the debates, left petitioners feeling frustrated and ignored. The Committee undertook the inquiry to hear their concerns and propose changes in response to them.
The Committee looked closely at the proposal to ban sales and use of fireworks by the public but were not persuaded to recommend this drastic course of action at that time. There are valid concerns backed up by evidence from overseas that a ban could have unintended consequences. A ban would have a substantial economic effect, which would be most keenly felt by people who have built their livelihood on the fireworks industry. A ban would likely have dire consequences for competently run, voluntary, community displays, which use fireworks to raise funds for local good causes. In many cases these community displays have widespread local support an increase community cohesion.
However, the enquiry found clear evidence that petitions calling for greater restrictions on sales and use of fireworks have bee motivated by justified concerns. In many cases, there are substantial adverse effects, for example on people with a very wide range of health conditions and disabilities. There can be very distressing effects on people with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, including military veterans. Animals can suffer serious and long-term effects. The Committee took the view “that it is not good enough for the Government to repeatedly claim that the law protects these people and animals from harm. It does not. We now expect action, rather than continued apathy”.
The Committee took the view that it is imperative that consumer fireworks are only sold to the public through legitimate retailers with the appropriate licences and by staff with the appropriate level of training to advise customers about safe and responsible use. Government is encouraged to act quickly to close a potential loophole in the regulations around storage by retailers of up to 5kg of fireworks, particularly over social media, with a view to establishing a national, cross-agency strategy to tackle illegal online sales before October 2020.
The Committee concluded that “Government has so far failed to act in response to legitimate concerns about fireworks expressed through the e-petitions system. People rightly expect the Government to listen to them, take their concerns seriously, and act. The Government’s response to this Report is its chance to finally do that”.
It was suggested that this Committee write to Catherine McKinnell to highlight the concerns of the Tyne and Wear authorities.
RESOLVED - (i) That the information contained within the report be noted.
(ii) That a letter be sent on behalf of this committee from the Chair to Catherine McKinnell outlining the concerns of the Committee on this issue.