While millions of fireworks are sold and used safely each year the government recognises that many people still have serious concerns about their use.
The government recognises that many communities feel under siege around bonfire night each year as the misuse of fireworks escalates. Were committed to tackling anti-social behaviour in all its forms, thats why were introducing the Fireworks Act to crack down on the problem but still allow the safe use of fireworks for special occasions.
Through the Fireworks Act we are now able to set a maximum noise limit for fireworks, license retailers selling fireworks and ban their use during anti-social hours. These new laws will not apply to Bonfire Night in 2003, but the DTI is calling on retailers and consumers to act in the spirit of the new law so that everyone can have fun while considering others and avoiding the misery that fireworks can sometimes cause.
However, we hope to implement parts of the Act dealing with anti-social issues before Christmas. This means that we will create a curfew for the use of fireworks, create an offence for possession of fireworks by minors and implement the fireworks industrys voluntary ban on air bombs by prohibiting their supply.
The Acts other principal provisions - setting a maximum noise limit for fireworks, licensing of suppliers, rules for public firework displays, importation of fireworks and training of display operators - require considerably more time to formulate policy and agreement with other government departments, stakeholders, retailers, enforcement bodies etc. We will start implementation of this part of the Act in the New Year.
The new measures also include a crackdown on illegal markets in fireworks with improved co-ordination of intelligence between Customs and Excise, Health and Safety Executive and Trading Standards Departments, and a new drive to encourage local councils to use their powers to curb the problem of firework noise and nuisance.
We have also secured agreement from the firework industry that fireworks would only be sold three weeks before 5 November, for a few days afterwards and for a similar period over the New Year. However we recognise that this arrangement is not perfect, and that public demand for fireworks extends beyond traditional periods for example, for celebrating weddings, birthdays or festivals such as Diwali.
We have decided not to opt for an outright ban on the sale of fireworks to the public - we believe this option is unworkable; it would not only lead to a black market in fireworks but also might encourage people to make home-made fireworks. All fireworks sold in the UK have to comply with strict British safety standards, which also restrict their size and explosive content.
The majority of firework-related accidents are caused by people - particularly young people - ignoring the fireworks safety code. To try to cut accidents among young people, 1997 regulations only allow for fireworks to be sold to people aged 18 and over.
Every year, the DTI runs a fireworks safety campaign with the support of organisations such as Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT), Fight for Sight and The Blue Cross.
In 2003 we will, again, be targeting misuse of fireworks by teenagers and on injuries caused by sparklers, especially to children under the age of 5 years.
The campaign will include a series of new TV adverts to remind parents that sparklers can cause serious injury if not used sensibly and an advert aimed at teenagers to be shown in selected cinemas in the week leading up to 5th November including the autumn half term holiday. In addition firework packs have been sent to 25,000 schools around the country with teaching materials linked to the National Curriculum about the safe use of fireworks.