[Relevant documents: First Report of the Petitions Committee, Session 2019, Fireworks, HC 103, and First Special Report of the Petitions Committee, Session 2019–21, Fireworks: Government Response to the Committee’s First Report of Session 2019, HC 242.]

David Mundell Portrait David Mundell (in the Chair)
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I remind hon. Members that there have been some changes to normal practice in order to support the new call list system and to ensure that social distancing can be respected. Members should sanitise their microphones using the cleaning materials provided before they use them and respect the one-way system around the room. Members should speak only from the horseshoe, and may speak only if they are on the call list. This applies even if debates are under-subscribed. Members cannot join the debate if they are not on the call list. Members are not expected to remain for the wind-ups, and there is less of an expectation that they will stay for the two speeches after they have spoken. This is to help to manage attendance in the room. Members may wish to stay beyond their speech, but should be aware that in doing so, they may be preventing Members in the Public Gallery from moving to a seat on the horseshoe.

Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi (Gower) (Lab)
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2 Nov 2020, 4:35 p.m.

I beg to move,

That this House has considered e-petition 276425, relating to the sale of fireworks.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Mundell, and an honour to lead for the Petitions Committee on this debate.

Once again, we are having this debate in the run-up to 5 November, when we mark the foiling of the gunpowder plot in 1605. As we speak, we are only metres away from where Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Palace of Westminster and kill King James I. First, I thank Elizabeth Harden, who set up this petition, and the people who have signed it and other petitions like it over many years. Many colleagues have requested a chance to speak in this important debate, but due to the restrictions on numbers in Westminster Hall and other proceedings, they are unable to make their constituents’ voices heard. I stand here to represent many of their views.

This is an emotive subject, and I have been contacted by hundreds of people about it. No one can deny that a well organised firework display is something that a lot of people look forward to as the nights draw in, but the distress and danger that fireworks can cause to people with disabilities or health conditions, and to small children, wild animals and pets, must be considered throughout this debate. Marj Williams, my constituent and friend from the village where I live, Pontarddulais, has emailed me to express her frustrations about Guy Fawkes night and to suggest that, if we cannot stop the sale of fireworks altogether, they be sold for licensed events only, rather than to the general public, and that such events be restricted to one night only, not four or five consecutive nights.

I am sure all MPs have received emails from constituents outlining the terrible effect of unplanned fireworks being set off, often as early as October. I am afraid that this year, as we are living through the second wave of coronavirus, the consequences of the sale of fireworks and the increase in home displays will be the worst ever. We have rightly seen organised displays cancelled, but not a ban on the sale of fireworks to the general public. Some responsible outlets and supermarkets have made the decision not to sell fireworks for themselves, but the fact that the sale of fireworks has continued means that there has been a rise in firework-related antisocial behaviour, and there will be, I am afraid, more accidents.

The figures on injuries caused by fireworks are stark. There were nearly 2,000 visits to A&E linked to fireworks in 2018-19. In 2018, 4,436 individuals attended A&E because of an injury caused by a firework. NHS England states that in the past five years there have been almost 1,000 hospital admissions related to the discharge of a firework. Interestingly, in 2019, some 35,000 people sought advice from the nhs.uk website on how to treat burns and scalds; the figure peaked at more than 2,800 visits on 4 November.

What can we expect this year, when organised displays will not be happening? It is bound to lead to an increase in demand on emergency services at a time when we should be protecting our NHS. It is just irresponsible. How can we morally justify the sale of fireworks in a pandemic? I am not alone in my concerns about the impact of an increase in home displays on or around 5 November on the emergency services and the NHS.

Of course, nobody plans to have an accident, but when individuals, however experienced with fireworks, take any risk with them, there is a direct effect on services that are already under a huge burden and strain. Under normal circumstances, at this time of year, especially on 5 November, accident and emergency departments are under extreme pressure. The facts are the facts: fireworks are potentially very dangerous. If we want to be seen to be acting responsibly, the Government should ban the sale of fireworks, especially this year.

These safety concerns extend to wildlife and our natural spaces. Without safeguards and professional organisation, the risk of damage to land, livestock and wildlife from errant fireworks will be hugely increased. In my constituency, a couple of years ago, I saw a horse lose its life from the stress caused by fireworks continually going off. That is just unacceptable.

There are solutions to this ongoing issue. The petitions inquiry gave three recommendations to the Government. The first is that we create a permit scheme, run by local authorities, which would limit the number of firework displays in an area. The second is that we create a national awareness scheme about the responsible use of fireworks and their impact on veterans and those with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mike Amesbury Portrait Mike Amesbury (Weaver Vale) (Lab)
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2 Nov 2020, 4:37 p.m.

Up and down the country, our constituencies are starting to sound like war zones. My constituent, Richard Smith, a veteran who has given so much to this country, suffers particularly acutely at this time of year. He is an advocate for organised, licensed events, as well as tougher penalties, such as fixed-penalty notices. I would like to hear the Minister’s response to that suggestion. I thank my hon. Friend for securing such an important debate.

Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi
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2 Nov 2020, 4:37 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments about his constituent, because this issue is of great concern. The noise fireworks give off when they are used, not only in displays, frightens people. It is really quite unacceptable. That is why the call for fixed-penalty notices is important.

Thirdly, we need to rethink how fireworks are packaged, so that we limit their appeal and availability to children, and to others who behave badly and do not respect them. There is also a silent fireworks campaign, started by councillors in Pembrey and Burry Port, a town near my Gower constituency. The campaign suggests that if the sale of fireworks to the general public is to continue, those fireworks should be silent, so as to reduce antisocial disturbance to residents, pets and ex-armed forces personnel, of whom we have spoken.

Is it really beyond the wit of man to implement these recommendations, and to protect the most vulnerable in our communities and our pets and animals, who have no voice in this important matter? One need only look at social media to see the impact on animals at home whenever fireworks are set off, whatever the occasion, throughout the year. It is our responsibility, as Members of Parliament, and the responsibility of the Government to ensure that people and pets do not suffer. The Government’s response to the Petitions Committee inquiry was wholly inadequate. I hope that the Minister will take on board the strength of feeling about this issue in his response.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)
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2 Nov 2020, 4:34 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Mundell. I am a member of the Petitions Committee, and this is an excellent opportunity for us to share the petitioners’ concerns in Parliament. I thank the hon. Member for Gower (Tonia Antoniazzi) for her opening remarks.

I also thank the 338 Carshalton and Wallington residents who signed the petition, the many more who sent me emails about it, and those who took part in my snap Facebook poll overnight on this issue, which was prompted, funnily enough, by my arriving home quite late to hear fireworks being set off. I will say a bit more about that later. Just before rising to speak, I checked the online poll, in which I asked my constituents what they think about the petition, and no fewer than 680 said that they would like a total ban on the sale of fireworks or at least some restriction, whereas 210 said that they do not think change is necessary, and they would not be happy to see any restrictions on the sale of fireworks, so there was quite a healthy majority for the first option.

I totally agree with the hon. Lady’s opening remarks. When I was growing up, there was many a wonderful firework display on Guy Fawkes night in my Carshalton and Wallington constituency. For example, local scout groups put on displays—I was a member of the 6th Carshalton scout group—and the Round Table Carshalton fireworks night takes place every year.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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The Minister is nodding; he used to live next to the park where that display takes place, so he knows it very well. The Round Table does a fantastic job and puts on a great event.

However, I have heard from many constituents tales of what can happen when fireworks go off. I have also heard the concerns of various organisations, particularly animal charities. Animals are one of the primary reasons why people have concerns about the general sale of fireworks. Speaking from personal experience, my older golden retriever, Willow, is quite frightened of fireworks and cannot settle down when she hears them going off. It is upsetting to see her in that state.

There have also been concerns about antisocial behaviour. I mentioned that I heard fireworks going off last night, and this morning it came to my attention that it is rumoured—I have not had confirmation from the police yet—that a group of young people were letting off fireworks in the pedestrianised Wallington Square, which caused significant damage, as well as distress to the residents living near the high street. That behaviour is not only a nuisance but highly dangerous, as the hon. Member for Gower highlighted clearly.

A number of solutions to this ongoing issue have been suggested, both in the petition and by residents who have contacted me, and I want to touch on a few of them. The first, and perhaps the most extreme, is a total ban on the sale of fireworks in the United Kingdom, which would essentially bring an end to firework displays in the UK. I think that is a bit too heavy handed, and I am sure we can find a more balanced approach. There is a range of other suggestions, especially to do with licencing, including the idea that we sell fireworks only to those holding formal events, that we regulate noise, and that we limit the dates on which fireworks can be set off. The Government will have considered those suggestions in their call for evidence in 2018, and the petition calls for some of those measures to be taken.

Colleagues will want to explore those options in more detail, so to allow them to speak, I will draw my remarks to a close. The Government are considering evidence that they started to collect in 2018, and are looking at the Scottish Government’s consultation and the Petitions Committee’s inquiry. I look forward to seeing what they have to say in response to those two pieces of work. Ultimately, I hope that they can find a balanced approach that allows us to continue to enjoy these events, particularly on Guy Fawkes night, and ensures that we address the concerns that our constituents have raised.

Lisa Cameron Portrait Dr Lisa Cameron (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) (SNP)
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2 Nov 2020, 12:01 a.m.

It is nice to see you in the Chair, and to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Mundell, seeing as you are my constituency neighbour.

I thank the Petitions Committee and Elizabeth Harden for the petition, the hon. Member for Gower (Tonia Antoniazzi), and of course the 845 people in my constituency of East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow who took the time to sign it. It is an extremely important petition; I stand to be corrected, but I think it is the one that the highest number of my constituents has signed.

It is extremely important that we consider the impact on our NHS of inadvertent injuries to children during Guy Fawkes night celebrations, and the impact on assistance dogs and those with disabilities. I declare an interest as the chair of the all-party parliamentary group for disability. I also have to declare an interest as the mother of Rossi, my little French bulldog, who becomes extremely unsettled—almost terrified—every year at this time, when he hears the loud bangs. He takes to hiding under my bed. Rossi is the mascot on the Twitter page of the all-party parliamentary group on dog advisory welfare, which I chair. I thank everyone who has been in touch with me in relation to those roles, as well as constituents who have lodged their concerns with me ahead of today’s debate.

It is clear that easy access to fireworks and poor enforcement of legislation is having a detrimental impact on both domestic and wild animals, and particularly pet dogs. I have received briefings from the Dogs Trust, Cats Protection, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, Blue Cross, the Kennel Club and the British Veterinary Association, to name but a few organisations that are concerned about the impact of fireworks and feel that it is important that we have this debate.

The Dogs Trust and the Blue Cross call for further restrictions on the sale of fireworks. They would limit them to licensed, organised public events only, at certain times of the year. They say that quieter fireworks are not an absolute solution to the problem, as close proximity and prolonged exposure can have a negative impact on the welfare of animals. However, lower-decibel fireworks should be used to reduce the number of animals affected.

Cats Protection, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, and the British Veterinary Association call for a review of fireworks legislation and its impact on animal welfare, with a view to introducing further restrictions on the use of fireworks. In a 2018 Dogs Trust survey of 2,000 members of the public, 89% of respondents agreed that pets are distressed by fireworks; 79% said that they tried to keep their pets inside to limit that distress; and over 50% believed that fireworks should be restricted to official displays.

A Blue Cross survey found that 70% of UK pets were affected by fireworks. Dogs topped the list at 64%; they were followed by cats at 42% and horses at 17%. Owners reported their pets trembling with fear and being physically sick, while 45% said the unexpected bangs and noises made their pets hide away for hours, just like my Rossi. Some 21% said that their pets were scared to go outdoors for days afterwards; that shows the long-term impact of firework displays.

I note an article about Brody, a little dog who lost his ear after malicious teenagers set off fireworks next to his head. A grandmother had to chase them away. He was eventually found hiding down a manhole with maggots in his wound. Thankfully, he was rescued and taken to safety. The impact of fireworks cannot be underestimated.

Peter Egan, a patron of the all-party parliamentary group on dog advisory welfare, sent me his views ahead of today’s debate:

“Fireworks are terrible for animals. Many dogs and cats are simply terrified, not least because of their acute hearing and sense of smell, which is so much more sensitive than ours.”

Wildlife suffering is rarely discussed, but he recalls the terrible case of the Bideford starling roost; startled birds were reported to have been injured and killed after flying into buildings and the river, and were even trampled to death. He said there is also a significant risk of terrible physical injuries to people; he himself was hit by a firework when he was just nine, and still has the scar. Peter says that fireworks are simply a waste of money and that he would prefer it if people donated their firework money to the NHS, particularly this year.

Ellen Watson, a House of Commons Clerk, has spoken on social media about how she was left vulnerable when her guide dog Skipp was terrified by fireworks. Ellen’s Twitter plea was simple and clear, and her words encapsulate the feelings of people across the UK:

“Not only do fireworks cause extreme distress for dogs & humans, they pose risk to disabled ppls safety. This has to stop. Fireworks NEED to be regulated.”

She added:

“Dogs are often life changing or life saving for people (especially assistance dogs).”

I will touch briefly on the impact on those who have post-traumatic stress disorder, particularly our veterans—I declare an interest as my husband is a veteran. We really cannot underestimate that issue, either, and, particularly at this time of year, when remembrance events are upon us, we must consider the impact on our veteran community. Kerry Snuggs, a former police officer, has post-traumatic stress disorder and, like veterans, she has spoken about the impact of fireworks night:

“Fireworks night is a trigger for many. Those who have served in armed forces and emergency services will have seen so many traumatic incidents that at any point the brain may just say enough is enough. Please consider those suffering with PTSD this fireworks day”.

To conclude, I thank my constituents once again. As I have said, this is an extremely important and acute issue for them, and they have been in touch with me about it. They feel strongly that the licensing and limiting of public firework sales and use can help people enjoy the spectacle of firework shows, while facilitating compassionate action for families who are affected by firework stress, carers of people with disabilities, veterans with PTSD and the millions of us who own dogs, cats and other companionship animals. Please, let us look seriously at this issue and at the recommendations of the Petitions Committee, and think about how to take them forward. We are here to represent the public, whose views we should consider when legislating on the matter. I say to the public: please, do not be a firework fiend this year. Think about our NHS, the animals that are affected, and those with disabilities and PTSD.

Christian Wakeford Portrait Christian Wakeford (Bury South) (Con)
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2 Nov 2020, 12:02 a.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Mundell. I thank the Petitions Committee and the hon. Member for Gower (Tonia Antoniazzi) for securing the debate, as well as the 777 constituents of mine who signed the petition.

One of those constituents, Mr Cohen, has raised the issue with me several times. I am incredibly sympathetic to his concerns, and echo his calls for greater protections and regulation. Although many of us enjoy organised firework displays on bonfire night and at the new year, that has unfortunately led to fireworks being set off, for one cause or another, throughout the year.

Just last Friday, as I was sat in my office in the early hours of the evening, fireworks were going off the middle of Radcliffe, with no real celebrations going on—it was just antisocial behaviour, which we clearly need to tackle. While sat in this debate, I have received another complaint about fireworks being set off in Prestwich at half-past 5 in the morning. That highlights the real concerns that many residents have. Fireworks are set off at all hours and in all locations.

Fireworks cause real problems and fear for pet owners, veterans, those who suffer from dementia, and parents—many of us included—of young children. My daughter Lavinia was spooked by fireworks as I was putting her to bed recently, on one of the few nights when I am not in this place and get to spend with her. She was so spooked that rather than her going through her usual bedtime routine, I had to nurse her to sleep for more than an hour, while she clung to me, cuddling, because she could not get to sleep as she was so worried about the loud noises.

For pet owners, that problem is compounded, because they cannot explain to their animals what is going on. The unpredictable nature of fireworks makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for animals to acclimatise to them. We absolutely should do more to prevent the use of fireworks outside organised displays for events such as Diwali, Chinese new year, bonfire night and new year. Enforcement is clearly not possible. By the time the police get to a location where fireworks are being set off, the perpetrators have absconded

There are, however, ways to tackle illegal firework use, which the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has recommended. We can reduce the time that retailers can sell fireworks to specific dates to fit around the previously mentioned events. We can look at reducing the noise level of fireworks to 90 decibels, as has been recommended, to assist in mitigating the distress to vulnerable groups and animals. The licensing of all public firework displays by their local authority would go a long way to tackling the issue. I would go further and push for all fireworks to be available only for use in licensed public displays, and I would suggest a ban on all pop-up shops selling fireworks.

This is not a bid to reduce the public’s enjoyment, but to protect the health and wellbeing of the nation’s pets and those most likely to suffer from the inappropriate and illegal use of fireworks. The laws that have been in place for many years are clearly insufficient to address these concerns and need to be updated to protect the most vulnerable, while still allowing licensed public events for the nation to enjoy. The Government must do more to tackle these concerns and the fear experienced by many.

Today’s debate clearly shows that although we might argue in the Chamber and Westminster Hall, there is a wide level of cross-party support to try to tackle these issues. Again, I commend the hon. Member for Gower for securing this debate and I am in complete agreement with what she said. I hope the Minister is listening and will take our concerns on board to make sure that we can enjoy such events in a compassionate way, as the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) has said.

Alex Davies-Jones Portrait Alex Davies-Jones (Pontypridd) (Lab)
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2 Nov 2020, 4:57 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Tonia Antoniazzi) for so ably introducing this debate, and I am sorry that I missed her introduction. It is a privilege to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Mundell. I rise to speak on behalf of the 636 people in my constituency of Pontypridd who signed the petition calling for a ban on the sale of fireworks to the general public. This is not the first time the issue has been discussed in this place. Numerous petitions have argued for the greater regulation of fireworks, and yet the Government fail to act and to take the issue seriously.

A few weeks ago, I asked the Leader of the House for a debate to discuss the need for the greater regulation of fireworks. I raised concerns about the impact of fireworks on people with mental illness and on animals and the environment. In a typically dismissive fashion, he said:

“No, I am sorry, but I won’t. I think the regulations are about right and fireworks are fun.”—[Official Report, 15 October 2020; Vol. 682, c. 540.]

I want to use this opportunity to urge the Government once again to take the issue seriously. Don’t get me wrong—I love fireworks and I always have. I even had an organised display at my wedding on new year’s eve. I love bonfire night, too. There is something special about being wrapped up warm in hats, scarves and gloves, with the smell in the air, a hotdog in one hand and a toffee apple in the other, watching the magic of fire and colours light up the night sky to the chorus of oohs and aahs. But like everything special, fireworks should be kept for the once a year celebrations of bonfire night and new year’s eve, and not used as a weapon to terrorise communities throughout the months of October, November and December.

Every year this debate is held and every year hundreds of thousands of people sign a petition such as the one we are debating today, but this year is different for a host of reasons. The coronavirus pandemic means that, sadly, people will not be able to join together to watch organised firework displays as usual. There have been some reports that that is leading to an increase in the number of private firework displays. The Kennel Club has reported that up to 40% of people between the ages of 16 and 34 are planning a private backyard display. We know that many animals, both domestic pets and wild animals, find fireworks terrifying, with some owners reporting that their pets have to be sedated when fireworks are going off. Why on earth should pet owners effectively have to drug their animals to calm them or reduce anxiety?

The noise from fireworks has a significant effect not only on animals, but on people, too. For elderly people or those with mental health problems such as PTSD, fireworks are genuinely distressing. They can trigger flashbacks and leave elderly people terrified to even leave their homes, and private backyard displays can also, tragically, be dangerous. I know only too well the extent of it. When I was younger we had fireworks in my back garden and my father was badly burnt by a rogue sparkler. I am glad to say that we managed to deal with it at home; it was not very serious. All he lost was a T-shirt, but he still has the scar to tell his story. However, I know that for others the tale is not as easy.

Every year, we see horrible reports of people suffering life-changing injuries and burns, and even reports of deaths, when private firework displays go badly wrong. Fireworks are often associated with antisocial behaviour. There have been a number of incidents in south Wales recently where residents have reported young people throwing fireworks at animals and even directly at people. One woman reported that a firework was thrown at her car while she and her children were inside. I cannot imagine how terrifying that must have been, and the Government have a responsibility to do more to protect people from such horrible experiences.

Finally, I want to take this opportunity to talk about the fantastic work that my own local authority of Rhondda Cynon Taf has been doing to draw attention to the issue. Unlike the Government, it takes this issue seriously and is conducting a review on the use of council land for firework displays.

There needs to be a public safety campaign on the use of fireworks. If the Government are not prepared to move towards allowing only organised displays, there are many other things that they could do to help keep people safe. If necessary, they could raise the age at which people can buy fireworks, they could restrict sales to certain times of the year, and they could empower councils and the police to take more action to tackle antisocial behaviour using fireworks. The Government urgently need to recognise the broad range of health and safety concerns that have been raised in this debate, and they must take action now before it is too late. Diolch, Mr Mundell.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)
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2 Nov 2020, 12:08 a.m.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Mundell, and to join colleagues for this annual debate on the harms that fireworks cause in many of our communities. I suppose that it is with a sense of some frustration that I stand here today, because we have been having such debates for some years now and the Government’s response is to continue to ignore the serious concerns that all of us are raising on a cross-party basis.

There are 414 signatures on the petition from constituents in Glasgow Central; the number of signatures has been reasonably consistent over many years. I continue to have concerns about fireworks raised with me again and again. The hon. Member for Gower (Tonia Antoniazzi) said she started receiving complaints about fireworks in October. I think I can probably beat her, because I started receiving complaints in July, from residents in Pollokshields who live in Maxwell Square. They said that they

“typically hear a firework every day, always in broad daylight, usually mid-afternoon. At times, I have seen them exploding on the ground in the middle of Maxwell Square when the park is full of children or set off in the middle of the road.”

Obviously, it is hugely concerning that fireworks are being used in such a way when children are nearby.

Another person who also lives in Pollokshields emailed me in August to say that they had also found fireworks in the park nearby and had picked up the empty casings left behind. They said that the empty casings had very aggressive imagery; they were not for garden fireworks displays, but had pictures of people looking intimidating and wearing masks, as if they were about to use the fireworks in an aggressive way. In Pollokshields in 2018, that was what local residents found. Groups of people on the street were using fireworks against the police in an aggressive way—firing them and using them as weapons. That led me and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, whose Scottish constituency this had happened in, to set up a taskforce in the area with local police, community groups, the fire brigade and trading standards officers from the council. We have worked incredibly hard over the intervening two years to bring together a community response in Pollokshields to try and stop this kind of thing from happening again.

I must pay tribute to the police—to Chief Inspector Ross Allan, Sergeant Cenny Smith and Inspector John Menzies—who have done a huge amount of work to make sure that people in Pollokshields are kept safe from fireworks. They have educated schoolchildren, they have sited a mobile police office in Pollokshields, they have organised additional foot patrols, and they are doing everything they can to try to bring together this community response. But they should not have to do all that, because we should have the powers in Scotland to change the law to make sure that the impact of fireworks on communities is not felt in the way that it is.

For other residents of other parts of my constituency, fireworks are also a concern. Some are residents of the Templetons building, next to Glasgow Green. As you will know, Mr Mundell, Glasgow Green has a significant fireworks display every year—not this year, unfortunately, which is causing local residents a bit of extra concern. They fear that people will come to Glasgow Green and use fireworks there anyway, regardless of the social distancing requirements. Lisa Murray, who chairs the Verde residents association, has already seen this happening outside her building. What makes the situation worse is that this building is also affected by the cladding scandal, so she is incredibly worried that young people using fireworks irresponsibly in her neighbourhood will lead to the whole building going up in flames. They have had bin fires near their building because of fireworks being launched from bins, and residents are rightly scared.

A resident in the Calton wrote to me saying:

“I can no longer tolerate panic attacks every day and having to call mental health team due to break downs”—

because of the fireworks—

“teenagers in my area set fire to a mattress and started throwing fireworks into the fire they started…I am literally begging you please do something…each year things just get worse and worse.”

What does the Minister intend to do to keep that constituent safe from the irresponsible use of fireworks? A resident of Govanhill says:

“As you know, the Southside of Glasgow has suffered years of misery because of malicious use of fireworks. We started to hear them at the end of September this year, and now, on 15th October, my dog is terrified to leave home after dark. This will go on in my area until after New Year…I understand that a ban on sales to the general public can have unintended consequences, but as a chemistry teacher, I cannot understand why we allow high powered explosives to be placed in their hands, causing misery and injury.”

As my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) mentioned, this can have impacts on people with disabilities as well. The secretary of Shawlands and Strathbungo community council has written to say that she is aware of a firework being set off right next to a partially sighted person with a guide dog.

It is clear that people are not using fireworks responsibly and that more needs to be done. The Scottish Government held a consultation on this matter and got 16,000 responses, with almost all—some 94%—saying they would welcome increased controls on the sale of fireworks, while 87%, more than three quarters, said they would welcome a ban on the sale of fireworks The figures are clear. Where this falls down is that there has been no substantial response from the UK Government to the Scottish Government’s request for action. Back in 2018, I was told that a desktop review was being conducted by the Office for Product Safety and Standards, but that seems to have brought absolutely no results whatsoever. Just before I came over here, I received the response from the Minister that the Government do not have plans to bring forward additional legislative proposals on fireworks because a comprehensive regulatory framework is already in place, but we have heard from Members from all around the House, and from Members who are not here because of the social distancing restrictions, that this is completely inadequate. We hear year after year that the regulatory framework is not working.

Instead of fobbing off all our constituents, fobbing off the Scottish Government and fobbing off people who have genuine concerns about the impact on themselves, their pets and the wider community, will the Government devolve the relevant powers over fireworks to the Scottish Government, who have the evidence, the will and the understanding of this issue and want to proceed with it, so that my constituents can get a night’s sleep?

Patricia Gibson Portrait Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP)
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I begin by thanking the hon. Member for Gower (Tonia Antoniazzi) for her comprehensive setting out of the problems and challenges we face with this issue. I am delighted to take part in this debate, but in doing so I have a sense of déjà vu all over again. I have spoken several times on the issue of fireworks on behalf of my constituents since 2015. My view is, has always been and will continue to be that the sale of fireworks should be restricted to those with a licence to deliver organised community displays. That view is widely held across Parliament and the UK, and during the restrictions that we are all enduring because of covid-19, it is more important than ever.

As is always the case in these debates, no one has argued, and no one would seek to argue, that, when used correctly, fireworks are not an enjoyable spectacle. In normal times, some 10 million people across the UK each year see fireworks as a feature in big events in November, for weddings and in all sorts of other celebrations throughout the year. Anyone fortunate enough to have attended such an event will no doubt say that it was indeed a marvellous spectacle. However, we also need to take account of the alarm, distress, danger and anxiety that fireworks far too often cause for too many people and animals, and the disruption they cause to communities when purchased and used irresponsibly by individuals. We have heard much about that from Members from different parties.

We have also heard a lot about the accidents and injuries caused by fireworks, which are very sobering. We are all aware of the increased pressure that accidents associated with fireworks bring to bear on our public services in normal times; of course, we are not in normal times this year. Covid-19 has meant that it has been necessary for community firework displays to be cancelled across the United Kingdom, but that creates a problem. There are now genuine fears that personal use of fireworks will rise significantly this year, which is likely to lead to more accidents and will therefore lead to more pressure on our NHS staff at the worst possible time, during a global health pandemic—crystallising further, if it were required, that selling fireworks to the general public is increasingly hard to justify. We know the increased pressure that accidents cause in normal times, and this is a perfect opportunity for the Minister to do something now.

Every year, from October to January, we hear, as we have heard again today, from constituents who are disrupted and plagued by the irresponsible use of fireworks at all hours of the day and night. Under cover of darkness, too many people set out deliberately to cause mischief, thinking that it is quite funny—that it is a bit of a wheeze—to set off fireworks near housing, where children or whole families are shaken from their slumbers, cats and dogs are scared half to death, and elderly people are driven into a state of fear and alarm. The effect on horses is well documented, with fireworks literally scaring them to death. We have also heard about the effect on veterans who might be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder following active service. This is a catalogue of unacceptable consequences of the free sale of fireworks.

Since 2017, we have been told that the creation of the Office for Product Safety and Standards would address many of the concerns about fireworks that we hear every year. I am keen to hear of the progress that has been made on that issue, unless of course, and I hope I am wrong, the Minister is going to stand up today and tell us that nothing has been done since 2017. His predecessor told us that something would be done by the Office for Product Safety and Standards. Surely the Minister will not tell us that there has been no progress.

It is both ludicrous and frustrating that we do not have the power to do anything meaningful about the sale of fireworks in Scotland. This lack of control effectively leaves the Scottish Parliament footering at the edges of a problem, with no real power to properly address it despite the fact that, as we have heard, a recent consultation by the Scottish Government showed that 87% of people in Scotland would welcome a ban on the sale of fireworks to the public. I urge the Minister to carry out a similar consultation in England; I think he would find it quite informative.

Of course, the Scottish Parliament can restrict when fireworks can be set off, but we all know that irresponsible people who want to set off fireworks do not care about what time it is when they choose to set them off. They do not care whether it is legal to set off a firework at a certain time, and they do not care if it puts other people in a state of alarm or fear, or if it endangers their safety.

Fireworks cannot currently be sold to anyone under 18, but, as I have said several years in a row, so what? We know that children can get hold of them. We also know that people using fireworks irresponsibly are often perfectly entitled under the law, as it stands, to buy them. The irresponsible use of fireworks is not confined to those who get hold of them illegally, which is why more needs to be done to protect the elderly, people with pets, and a range of people in our communities.

Every single Member of Parliament will have had constituents telling them about the onslaught of fireworks, the profound effects that has had on their constituents’ quality of life, and the effect on their pets, which undergo trembling fits and become withdrawn and very frightened. Of course, this cannot be prepared for, because the outbursts of fireworks come from nowhere when someone has fireworks and thinks they will have a wee bit of fun. Some people think it is a great idea to set off fireworks up tenement entrances, or in shared entry ways to flats, in the middle of the night.

The sale of fireworks is tightly restricted in the Republic of Ireland. In Northern Ireland, fireworks have long been subjected to some of the strictest laws in the world.  Perhaps the Minister will tell us why the rest of the UK is denied similar or greater protection. Even the United States, which has liberal gun laws, believes that restrictions on fireworks need to be strict.

The current situation in Scotland is nothing short of bizarre. The use of fireworks is a devolved matter, but the sale of fireworks is reserved. It does not take a genius to work out that unless the sale of fireworks—who can get their hands on them—can be tackled, there is no meaningful influence over who uses them, which makes it extremely difficult to police them. Our local environmental health and antisocial behaviour teams work hard to tackle the misuse of fireworks in our communities, but that is dealing with the consequences of the wide availability of fireworks rather than tackling the fear, alarm and distress, fire risks and safety hazards that they cause, which we have heard so much about. We need to tackle the real issue of the sale to individuals—the problem at source—and be mindful of the fact that fireworks are far more powerful and prevalent today than they were in the past.

Organised and licensed displays allow—in normal times—the many people who wish to enjoy fireworks to do so safely. Importantly, they allow local residents to plan ahead and make arrangements to protect their pets and get on with their lives. The Dogs Trust says that when public displays are organised, 93% of pet owners alter their plans during the display time to minimise their pet’s trauma, which protects their pet’s welfare.

On helping pet owners to prepare for the use of fireworks in their neighbourhood, we cannot do so—it is not possible—when fireworks are going off randomly with no warning. Therefore, the solution, as we have heard across the Chamber, is patently obvious to anybody who chooses to look. We need greater restrictions on the sale of fireworks, instead of selling them to all and sundry over 18 years old. Organised public firework displays are a safer option for all our communities, and would become the accepted and welcome norm.

I hope the Minister appreciates that it is time to ban the free sale of fireworks, except for public licensed displays. Such a ban would mean we could still enjoy fireworks in our communities, with new year displays and at celebrations such as weddings, but they would be out of the hands of those who, by accident or design, put the fear of God into our communities, shaking our children and whole families awake in their beds, alarming older people and causing suffering—perhaps even injury—to animals.

We need to get the balance right. No one is asking for fireworks to be banned altogether, but I urge the Minister to consider a consultation similar to the one carried out in Scotland. Let us hear what the public think. They need to be part of the conversation, to inform how we proceed to improve the situation across the UK. Let us see a meaningful response to their concerns. I hope he will indicate his willingness to carry out such a consultation so that real progress can be made. If it cannot, give us the power in Scotland at least to protect our own communities.

Alan Whitehead Portrait Dr Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab)
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2 Nov 2020, 5:25 p.m.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Tonia Antoniazzi) on bringing forward the debate, which I think hon. Members across the Chamber will agree has been thorough and thoughtful, with the issues before us put squarely on the table, as they should be. Indeed, I look forward to hearing the Minister’s reply to some of those points and suggestions, which I sincerely hope will be much more constructive than the response given to my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Alex Davies-Jones) when she recently raised the issue with the Leader of the House.

E-petitions, including the one that has brought about this debate, have attracted nearly three quarters of a million signatures in just three years. As the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) pointed out, we have had three Westminster Hall debates on fireworks in recent years—it is more or less an annual debate—and today marks our fourth. That demonstrates not only the strength of public feeling on fireworks, but the extent to which there is a feeling that things are not really moving forward and that greater activity on the issue is needed. I very much thank the instigators of the petition and everyone who took the time to sign it, including, since we are talking about numbers, the 400 in my constituency.

Clearly, the recent announcement that we will have a national lockdown from Wednesday this week will have an impact on people’s plans to celebrate bonfire night on 5 November. We have heard about that in the Chamber this afternoon and I will touch on it later. However, this debate is about far more than just this year; it is about what we do to improve the situation with fireworks well into the future.

I think we can all agree—indeed, we have agreed it around the Chamber this afternoon—that firework displays run by local groups and charities not only can provide a safe, predictable and organised space for firework displays, but can bring about a sense of place, promote community cohesion and raise funds to be invested in good local causes. That is quintessentially the way to frame firework displays for the future.

The fireworks evidence base published last Friday afternoon by the Office for Product Safety and Standards tells us that, while approximately 10 million people now buy and use fireworks each year, 14 million of us attended a public display led by members of the British Pyrotechnists Association in 2019 alone. That shows that there is a big appetite for those public displays, with their safe and organised ways of letting off fireworks, and also for the standards of control that the British Pyrotechnists Association brings to those kinds of displays.

However, it is absolutely right for MPs to consider how we can better protect people, animals and the planet, not from the realities of firework use under those circumstances, but from the particular circumstances of firework misuse. We are lucky to have some of the world’s most respected animal rights advocates operating here in the UK, including the RSPCA, the Kennel Club and Dogs Trust, for example. Those organisations are not calling for an outright ban on fireworks in the UK, but they do want to mitigate, where possible, the significant animal welfare concerns that have been raised this afternoon. There is broad consensus among those groups that the Government could and should be doing much more to protect animals.

Some of those organisations are calling for a ban on sales to private individuals in order to limit firework displays only to public events. We have had a big debate on that this afternoon, but it is well understood that loud, high-pitched and intermittent noise can adversely affect large proportions of animals, whose hearing is often much more sensitive than that of humans. We have heard of the effects that fireworks, set off in an inconsiderate and unpredictable way, can have on horses, cats, dogs and many kinds of animals.

There does not seem to be quite so much definitive evidence out there to call on regarding the effect that fireworks have on wildlife in general, but it is something that MPs on both sides of the House have also raised with the Government, and it is important that we get more information on the effect of fireworks on wildlife in the country. I urge the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to do some work on that and to see what results come forward.

We have also heard a lot about firework safety. We know that there were almost 2,000 A&E visits linked to fireworks in 2018-19, and more than 35,000 people had to seek advice on how to treat burns and scalds from the NHS website. Some of those injuries are serious and life-changing. Let us be absolutely clear that fireworks, in the hands of people who are not trained to use them safely, can be very dangerous indeed.

Although the evidence available at this point is limited, it suggests that the majority of those firework-related injuries in the UK occur at private displays in homes or on the streets, rather than at organised displays. As colleagues have said, given the lockdown, it appears that organised displays will be replaced with greater use of fireworks in the home, because of the cancellation of organised events and social distancing. Blue Cross recently found that 25% of people in the UK are considering firework displays at home this year. I hope the Minister will update us on what measures he is taking to prepare local authorities and our fire services for these circumstances, as there will inevitably be a greater call on health services and public bodies to response to that switch from public to private displays.

I want to raise a point that has not been discussed much this afternoon. Fireworks packaging and the paraphernalia that comes with them can fall to the ground and litter our green spaces. They are not biodegradable and can cause considerable environmental damage in the process. Gun powder is still used in modern fireworks. It throws sulphur particulates, metal oxides and some organic matter into the atmosphere, some of which falls to the ground. The bright colours and the effects that fireworks dazzle us with are the result of complex chemical concoctions, which can emit carbon dioxide, other gasses and residues.

A study by Environmental Protection UK has suggested that there are notable increases in air pollution from particulates and dioxins on and around 5 November. There is widespread disagreement, however, about the extent to which deposits and pollutants caused by fireworks actually affect soil and water sources. We need to be clearer about that. With smaller displays happening at home this year, the effect on air pollution in many of our towns and cities will be quite substantial.

At the moment, we are governed by the Fireworks Act 2003, which Labour brought in. The Act gave powers to impose licences on retailers selling fireworks outside predetermined dates—bonfire night, new year, Chinese new year and Diwali. It also brought in noise restrictions, banned the sale of F2 and F3 category fireworks to people under the age of 18, and ensured that F4 category fireworks—the most explosive—could only be possessed by fireworks professionals. It introduced an 11 pm curfew for most of the year. A breach of that curfew can, in theory, lead to an immediate £90 fixed penalty notice, considerable further fines and potential imprisonment for serial offenders.

As legislators, we know that these laws are largely meaningless without enforcement. The Minister needs to be clear that a decade of cuts to local authorities, for example to their trading standards and environmental health teams, has left them woefully under-resourced to tackle rogue traders or those flouting the rules under the existing legislation. If the Government are serious about protecting the public, animals and the environment from the negative aspects of fireworks, we need to see investment that allows for a proper enforcement of existing legislation. Like many others, I sometimes sit in my bedroom at 1.30 am listening to the sound of fireworks going off across my city, as they do in many other parts of the UK.

A survey run by YouGov for Dogs Trust found that over half the British public think that fireworks should now be limited to public display only, and over three quarters believe that fireworks should be used only at certain times of the year. It is clear that the case for the Government to consider these proposals is building. I would like to hear the Minister address those suggestions directly.

Many advocacy groups feel that so-called silent or quiet fireworks, although not a panacea, could reduce some distress across the board. We heard this afternoon from the hon. Member for Bury South (Christian Wakeford) about decreasing decibel levels for firework displays. I think that it is time for the Government to consider the current decibel level cap and see what can be done to bring it down.

For centuries, fireworks have brought joy and wonder to us mere mortals. Throwing luminous bursts of colour, light, sound and energy into the night sky, fireworks are wondrous to behold. But existing legislation is simply not being enforced. The public need to see the Government moving from merely understanding their concerns about animal welfare and all the other issues to actually taking more action. I look forward to hearing from the Minister this afternoon what that action will be.

Paul Scully Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Paul Scully)
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2 Nov 2020, 5:31 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Mundell. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Gower (Tonia Antoniazzi), not only for introducing the debate on behalf of the Petitions Committee but for her considered speech; to the hon. Members across the Chamber who took part in the debate; and obviously to the 305,000 people who took the time to sign the petition.

We heard some distressing stories about the treatment of animals, about antisocial behaviour and about injuries to people. We also heard about the positive side of fireworks—yes, the fun and the benefits. The hon. Member for Pontypridd (Alex Davies-Jones) said that she had a fireworks display on her wedding day. They can be enjoyable for many people and many cultures. We heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Bury South (Christian Wakeford) about Diwali and the Chinese new year. We often talk about 5 November, which is coming up in a few days’ time, but there are many other cultures that enjoy fireworks.

I have been a member of the Petitions Committee. I served on it for five years before the last general election, and I was serving on it when we looked at the issue of fireworks, took evidence and came up with our report. Fireworks are an issue that comes up year on year. I just caution the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) when he talks about 750,000 signatures, because it was 305,000 this year, 305,000 last year, I think, and 307,000 the year before, so the number is relatively consistent. Whether they are all individual signatures or some people have duplicated their signature, it is none the less a lot of people. And we need to ensure that we take into account their concerns, whether that is for their animals, for people’s safety or just because of disturbance and antisocial behaviour.

The petition this year, as in previous years, calls for a ban on the sale of fireworks to the public. It highlights the impacts that fireworks can have on animals and wildlife and on the environment, and the injuries to people. They have been debated thoroughly today and in previous debates. As we heard from a number of contributors, we have to consider these matters this year against the backdrop of covid and the additional considerations that that raises—I will come back to that. The hon. Member for Gower did raise it particularly, and I will address it shortly.

I empathise with the concerns that have been raised. We do understand as a Government the strong feelings that some people have about fireworks. We understand that with every petition and debate, those who lobby against fireworks will be questioning why the Government have not banned fireworks or restricted their use since the last debate, so I want to set out here the work that the Government have done since the last Westminster Hall debate in November 2018, and I want to explain why we do not consider a ban on fireworks to be an appropriate course of action.

Simply banning something does not mean that the issue will disappear. In fact, a ban can often have the opposite effect and create unintended consequences, so let me start with the legislation that we have in place. As we have heard, we have legislation in place to regulate the manufacture, supply, storage and possession of fireworks, and their use and misuse, to help to ensure public safety. That includes powers to prosecute those who use them in a dangerous or antisocial manner. The Fireworks Act 2003, the Fireworks Regulations 2004 and the Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2015 provide a regulatory framework that supports the enjoyment of fireworks while providing tools to manage the risks.

Local authority trading standards teams are working with retailers to ensure that the fireworks sold are safe, and they have powers to enforce against those who place non-compliant fireworks on the market, including those imported illegally or via the internet.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

2 Nov 2020, 12:01 a.m.

The Minister is making a good point about trading standards. During the debate, it has been announced that the trading standards team in Glasgow has seized 500 fireworks in the city, despite the fact that there are 73 premises in the city of Glasgow where fireworks can be bought legally. Does the Minister accept that that means that things are not working?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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2 Nov 2020, 12:04 a.m.

It is important that we work with the devolved Administrations to ensure the safety of people across the UK. I will come in a second to the training and resource that we are putting into enforcement. The police also have powers to tackle the improper possession and use of fireworks and antisocial behaviour caused by the misuse of fireworks wherever it arises.

The Office for Product Safety and Standards is responsible for protecting the public. It is the national regulator for product safety and is responsible for leading and co-ordinating the product safety system. It was created to deliver effective and trusted regulation for consumer products while ensuring that the legislative framework that it works with is effective and proportionate. It aims to ensure that consumers are kept safe and have confidence in the safety of the products they buy. To deliver that, businesses need to understand and meet their legal and regulatory obligations. To that end, the OPSS has worked with the Chartered Trading Standards Institute to develop and deliver a series of fireworks training events to frontline trading standards and fire safety officers. More than 200 officers in 105 local authorities have completed that training, which ensures that they have the skills and knowledge necessary to advise firework sellers of their responsibilities and to take enforcement action if necessary.

Let me turn to the evidence base and set out in more detail what work has been done. The Government have committed to ensure that all our policy making is based on evidence. I am pleased that the evidence base prepared by the OPSS was published last week. It contains data and information that has been sourced by drawing on existing data, literature and research, and by engaging with a range of groups and organisations, which have been invited to submit any data they have that is not already publicly accessible. Data was sought about the key issues raised in petitions, correspondence and debates, including noise, injuries and accidents, antisocial behaviour, environmental information and the impact on animals and people. A range of stakeholders have been engaged with to ensure that the evidence base reflects as wide a variety of evidence and perspectives as possible. They include Departments, local authorities, including trading standards teams, the fireworks industry, charities and originations that represent individuals, advocates for animal safety, the ex-armed forces and the retail sector.

A key concern is noise and disturbance, and we wanted to consider the issues most often raised: the suggestions that the maximum of 120 dB for fireworks that can be sold to a consumer is too high; that some fireworks sold to consumers are louder, and are continuing to get louder, than the maximum 120 dB level set out in legislation; and that the Government should promote silent or low-noise fireworks.

The evidence on the impact of fireworks on animal health indicates that different species of animals have different sensitivities and responses to noise. Separately, the OPSS has commissioned a programme of fireworks testing to determine the average decibel level for common types of retail fireworks sold for public use. It will evaluate whether fireworks placed for sale to consumers in the UK market meet the noise provisions in the Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2015. The hon. Member for Gower and other Members talked about silent fireworks, but it is not clear whether a silent firework actually exists. Fireworks clearly require some explosive content to be set off. However, as part of the evidence-based work, we have commissioned a test of fireworks to determine the range of decibel levels, and that will help to identify a lower acceptable decibel level. It will also look at the potential impact of such a classification. We will publish the report based on that work in due course.

The Petitions Committee inquiry was not party political. This is not a case of the Government not acting; the Petitions Committee is cross-party and has a Labour Chair: the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell). The Committee concluded that at that time it could not support a ban on fireworks. Instead, it recommended other actions. The Government’s policy aligns with the Committee’s conclusion that it is not appropriate to ban the public from buying and using fireworks, as it would not be a proportionate measure.

We agree with the inquiry’s conclusion that a ban on fireworks, either for private or public use, could have unintended consequences. We acknowledge the experience of the National Police Chiefs Council, which believes that banning fireworks would push the market underground and make it more difficult to regulate and monitor. In addition, a restriction on fireworks sold to the public by retail outlets could lead to more individuals buying products inappropriately through online social media sources and from outside the UK. Individuals sourcing fireworks from illegitimate or unsafe suppliers may unwittingly buy products that are unsafe, as they may not meet the UK’s safety requirements.

We take the view that the concerns raised can be best addressed through education and raising awareness about good practice, being considerate to neighbours and the impact on people and animals of irresponsible use, alongside ensuring that the public know what action they can take and what the law provides for. Raising awareness around the safe and considerate use of fireworks is a common theme that has come out of our stakeholder engagement. For that reason, OPSS has developed an awareness campaign, which launched on 20 October, for this year’s fireworks season.

The campaign partnered with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, the Child Accident Prevention Trust, the RSPCA and the Chartered Trading Standards Institute. We have also worked with a wide range of other stakeholders, including retail bodies such as the Association of Convenience Stores and the British Retail Consortium, to share the messaging across different audiences.

We accept that, with the cancellation of public displays, more people may be having displays in their own back gardens, so the focus of the campaign is to educate people on how to buy, use, store and dispose of fireworks safely; to ensure that retailers understand their responsibilities when selling fireworks; and to promote considerate use so that people and animals can be better protected from any negative effects of fireworks.

We have been working with colleagues in the Scottish Government and the Welsh Assembly to share information, and will continue to do so. We have also ensured that we are aligning our awareness campaign on the safe use of fireworks with local restrictions on social gatherings. I emphasise that people must follow the coronavirus restrictions in their local area at all times, including if they intend to use fireworks.

We rightly heard a lot about animals. When I was on the Petitions Committee, we took evidence from fireworks associations and retailers. The people affected include those with horses, dogs and other animals, and indeed young children, as we have heard. It is important that we continue to engage with animal welfare organisations to ensure that we understand the impact on animals and to promote the responsible use of fireworks.

I pay tribute to all Members who have contributed. It was a pleasure to hear my hon. Friends the Members for Carshalton and Wallington (Elliot Colburn) and for Bury South (Christian Wakeford), both of whom showed off how hard they are working: one through speaking of his use of social media and his instant snap poll, the other through speaking of how he was working in his office on a Friday evening—good man. I know that at this time we are all working really hard for our constituents.

We also heard from the hon. Members for Pontypridd, for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) and for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead). The hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) gave a horrendous example. I am glad that her dog was not the one was that was so horribly treated in that incident. I know that she is a great mother to her dog, and she will be looking after the dog on Thursday.

This issue comes up time and again and is of concern to people. We believe that, with the extra evidence that the OPSS is gathering and the extra awareness campaigns, which we are launching earlier, with more detail and to a larger extent each year, we can start to tackle this in a balanced and proportionate way. Again, I thank everybody who has taken part in this debate and pay tribute to the work of the Petitions Committee.

David Mundell Portrait David Mundell (in the Chair)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the hon. Member for Gower (Tonia Antoniazzi), who has up to 14 minutes to respond.

Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

2 Nov 2020, 12:04 a.m.

That is extremely kind, Mr Mundell. I shall endeavour to keep everybody busy for the next 14 minutes. I thank the Minister for his response. I share the view of the chemistry teacher who is concerned about such explosives being in the hands of the inexperienced, as brought up by the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss). I was a teacher for 20 years, so I was struck by that example. However many campaigns there are, the message is just not getting through—and that is how the petitioners feel.

As the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) pointed out, we have a sense of déjà vu. While I respect that there has been a campaign since 20 October, is that really early enough? It is not, and it is not satisfactory. I can tell hon. Members that I have not seen anything this year. As a mother of a 16-year-old son who has always disliked fireworks because of the noise, I appreciate that it is not a pleasant experience for everyone. I also take this opportunity to thank the 131 members of my constituency who signed the petition.

We have made so many sacrifices since March this year. I pay tribute to everybody in the NHS and the emergency services, particularly the fire brigade, because the next week and the coming days will not be easy for them. We are agreed across Westminster Hall that we have to think about the impact of home displays, because it can be absolutely horrific and potentially very dangerous. I agree with the hon. Member for Bury South (Christian Wakeford) on banning all pop-up shops.

I am not being a killjoy. The Leader of the House mentioned to my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Alex Davies-Jones) that fireworks are fun. I grew up overlooking Stradey Park, the famous Llanelli Scarlets rugby stadium, where every 5 November we sat with our hot dogs and watched and enjoyed the fireworks. However, things have changed. As has been mentioned, people are using fireworks as weapons. We have to do more, and I hope that we will keep on pressing the Government and working with the police and the emergency services to improve the situation. I have always had a dog in the house, and my mother currently has two dogs from the Dogs Trust, and it is frightening for them, because they do not understand. We have to work with everybody.

I appreciate that the Minister spent time on the Petitions Committee and so knows his way around these debates. However, we need to—and must—do more, for the sake and safety of everybody, particularly with the light that coronavirus shines on us.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered e-petition 276425, relating to the sale of fireworks.

Sitting suspended.