While many people enjoy the use of fireworks on special occasions, I appreciate that others do not like them. Fireworks can, of course, be dangerous and so it is right that the use and sale of them is controlled.
Firework regulations allow fireworks for home use to be sold during the traditional firework periods of Bonfire Night, New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year and Diwali. Suppliers who wish to sell fireworks outside the traditional periods must comply with stringent conditions before being granted a licence by their local licensing authority. This means the availability and use of fireworks outside the traditional periods has been greatly reduced.
Although there is some use of fireworks outside the traditional periods, the majority of people who use fireworks do so at the appropriate times of year and have a sensible and responsible attitude towards them.
Regulations allow the general public to buy and use certain categories of fireworks for family use and for private firework displays. These are classified as F2 and F3 and are available for sale to people aged 18 and over. All fireworks on sale to the public are required to comply with essential safety requirements, set down in UK law, which govern how they are made, tested and labelled.
Fireworks used for professionally-organised displays, classified as F4, are available for sale only to people who have undertaken an accredited course of training in pyrotechnics and who hold relevant professional insurance.
It is up to local councils to decide whether or not to put on public displays. These are covered by Health and Safety legislation which requires the display organisers to ensure the safety of the display operators, spectators and those in the near vicinity of the display site.
There are regulations which prevent the use of fireworks between 11pm and 7am all year round with the exception of 5 November, when the curfew starts at 12 midnight, and New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year and Diwali, when the curfew starts at 1am on the night of celebration.
Excessive noise from fireworks, or noise during the curfew period, can be considered a statutory nuisance and local authority environmental health officers have the power to investigate complaints of fireworks noise and act to prevent it where appropriate.
I understand concerns about the distress noisy fireworks can cause to pets, livestock and wildlife. This is one of the reasons that there is a noise level limit of 120 decibels on fireworks for home use. The Government recognises, however, that even at this level fireworks noise can be distressing to some animals and refer owners to advice on keeping animals safe during fireworks periods. This is freely available from animal charities, such as the Blue Cross which gives both general and species-specific advice on its website.
In addition, there is Government-sponsored advice and guidance on the safe and considerate use of fireworks on the Safer Fireworks website. The RSPCA has also published advice for pet owners on how to help your animal during a fireworks display. For more information please visit:
The Government has considered very closely the matter of a ban on the sale of fireworks to the general public. All the evidence, however, is that the majority of people who enjoy fireworks are prepared to use them sensibly and responsibly on specific occasions as a form of popular family entertainment. The Government therefore concluded that fireworks should not be banned for sale to, or use by, the general public.
The Government is also concerned that a ban could lead to an unregulated ‘black market’ in illegal fireworks and could encourage people to produce their own dangerous homemade devices. Enforcement of the existing regime, rather than a ban, helps to prevent this occurring.
Police are able to issue penalty notices to persons aged 16 and over for a range of offences related to the misuse of fireworks. These include throwing fireworks, possession of a firework designated only for displays, possession by a person under 18 of an adult firework and breach of the fireworks curfew.
I know that, regrettably, some people suffer injuries during the fireworks season, mainly as a result of misuse and carelessness. However, following campaigns on firework safety over the years, and the wide availability of advice and guidance on their safe and considerate use, fireworks-related injuries have fallen to about 1,000 per year. Government-sponsored advice and guidance on fireworks use can be found on the Safer Fireworks website.
The Government recognises that the use of fireworks can affect veterans and other groups due to the loud noise or flashes associated with fireworks and remains committed to promoting the safe and considerate use of fireworks. Advice for veterans about the potential impact of fireworks is available on the Veterans Gateway: https://support.veteransgateway.org.uk/app/answers/detail/a_id/732/~/five-tips-to-help-you-deal-with-bonfire-night-and-fireworks
Advice on how to use fireworks safely and in a considerate manner, that includes the considerations of vulnerable people, can be found as a part of the Office for Product Safety and Standards guidance available online at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/my-safety-fireworks
The UK Greenhouse Gas Inventory publishes an annual assessment of greenhouse gas emissions by source and removals. Fireworks are listed under the Waste Incineration sector (5C) according to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Common Reporting Format sector classifications.
Greenhouse gas emissions from fireworks used in public displays are not included in the UK Greenhouse Gas Inventory as they have been judged not to be a significant source of greenhouse gases in the UK. It is estimated that 10-20 thousand tonnes of fireworks are typically used in the UK each year. Even assuming the fireworks are entirely made of carbon and entirely oxidised, the greenhouse gas emissions from this level of activity would be less than 100kt CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalents). This is below the threshold of significance for including a source of greenhouse gas emissions in the inventory. The threshold was set by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as being both less than 500kt CO2e and 0.05 per cent of the total national greenhouse gas emissions (which is 236kt CO2e for the UK).
While there are no plans at the moment to place further limitations on the use of fireworks, the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) engaged with a wide range of views and developed an evidence base on the key issues that have been raised around fireworks including noise, as well as anti-social behaviour, non-compliance, environmental impact, and the impact on humans and animals.
Following the review by the OPSS, I understand that the Government remains committed to promoting the safe and considerate use of fireworks through the effective legislative framework and through non-legislative measures. Any further restrictions on fireworks sold to the public by retail outlets could possibly lead to more individuals buying products inappropriately, through online social media sources or from outside the UK which could drive individuals to source fireworks from illegitimate or unsafe suppliers, where products may not meet the UK’s safety requirements.
The Government has previously run public awareness campaigns and worked with a variety of stakeholders, including animal welfare groups, to promote the safe and considerate use of fireworks to the general public, to ensure that those using them do so safely and considerately.