Irresponsible fireworks 'should be as socially unacceptable as drink-driving'

A PARLIAMENTARY committee claims the “inconsiderate and irresponsible” use of fireworks should be considered as socially unacceptable as drink-driving.

The firework display during the Alexandra Palace Firework Festival in London. Picture: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

The House of Commons Petitions Committee is calling on the Government to take action on irresponsible fireworks use and urging better industry regulation.

The cross-party committee led an inquiry into the issue after several petitions calling for tighter restrictions on the sale and use of fireworks were signed by thousands of people.

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However it stopped short of calling for a ban on public firework sales because of the “substantial” economic effect it would have and the importance community-run displays have to local areas.

The inquiry found fireworks can be detrimental to animal welfare and can impact upon people with disabilities or health conditions such as PTSD or autism.

It called on the Government to fund annual national campaigns from October 2020 that raise awareness of the dangers of fireworks.

“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,” the report said.

Committee chair Helen Jones said the inquiry revealed the “troubling human impact of failing to regulate the fireworks industry effectively”.

The Labour MP said: “From affecting the mental health of veterans, to harming animal welfare, and even threatening the health of young children, the consequences are widespread.”

The report calls for legislation to empower local authorities to introduce permits in communities where the irresponsible use of fireworks is a problem for residents.

It also recommends a review of the decibel level limit of consumer fireworks with the view of working towards a reduced limit to reduce the risks to animals.

“While we do not support a ban on public sales and use of fireworks, further failure to act from the Government and agencies could mean that a ban becomes the only option,” Ms Jones said.

The committee has submitted its report for consideration, with a response expected after the General Election.

It came as scientists found air pollution levels on Bonfire Night last year were up to four times the daytime level.

Thousands of sensors across Newcastle and Gateshead constantly take readings of fine particulate matter, and last November 5 they showed that measurements tripled between 8pm and midnight as bonfires and fireworks were lit.

Levels rose from around 20 micrograms/m3 during the day to 80 micrograms/m3 just before 11pm.

That figure compares with the annual average across the area of 25 micrograms/m3 and is eight times the World Health Organisation’s recommended safe limit of 10 micrograms/m3.

The data was collected as part of Newcastle University’s Urban Observatory, the UK’s largest urban experiment collecting data about city life.

Researchers said low cloud last year exacerbated the situation.

Defra said they were expecting pollution levels to fall rapidly on Bonfire Night this year with increased winds forecast which should disperse particles.