MPs have called for an end to the “reign of terror” caused by the uncontrolled use of fireworks following a public outcry.
In a Westminster Hall debate, MPs told harrowing stories of animal distress and death as well as mental health issues caused by the impact of powerful, commercially available fireworks.
Several said fireworks should only be available for use in regulated displays and that retail sales to the public should be banned, following concerns they are fuelling incidences of anti-social behaviour and causing distress.
The law currently prohibits anyone from under 18 from buying fireworks. It is also illegal to set them off between 11pm and 7am — except for certain occasions such as Bonfire Night and Diwali — and in public places.
Justin Madders MP spoke of a constituent whose dog was so frightened that it jumped out of a first-floor window and ended up on a motorway, where it was killed.
Naz Shah, the MP for Bradford West, said she had heard of a Shetland pony that was so distraught that it strangled itself.
Robbie Moore, the Conservative MP for Keighley, said fireworks should be licensed in the same way as firearms.
“It is my view that we must absolutely put a stop to fireworks being able to be purchased by general members of the public,” he said,
“I fully support the call for proper fireworks to be utilised at licensed events by licensed holders.
“Because we are dealing with explosives here — if you’re going to have a shotgun licence and buy cartridges for usage, you have to have a proper licence that is vetted by the police and also vetted by the council.
“I don’t understand why we shouldn’t be looking at tougher measures along these lines for fireworks — after all, they are an explosive.”
Tory MP Philip Hollobone added: “As human beings, all of us can be frightened by noise, but we can rationalise it, we can understand it and most of us can overcome it.
“But very, very, few animals can do that. So if we want to stop hundreds of thousands of animals quaking in fear year in year out as a result of fireworks, let’s ban the wretched things from retail sale and have organised licensed public displays only.”
MPs were called to debate the issue after a petition to regulate the sale of fireworks garnered more than 300,000 signatures.
It called on the government to limit the sale and use of fireworks to organisers of licensed displays only, citing current laws that allow the public to use fireworks “16 hours a day, every day, making it impossible for vulnerable groups to take precautions against the distress they can cause”.
Luton North MP Sarah Owen detailed the impact that fireworks were having on one family in her constituency, where they were let off every single night.
She quoted a family member as saying: “The stress caused by them is enormous and growing. My child is terrified to a point where she screams and begs me to stop them.
“We have to put on a white noise sound on a tablet in a room in order to reduce the sound of the bangs. If she wakes up, she cries she shivers and goes back to sleep with ear muffs on.
“Before bedtime, she begged me for no more fireworks. Mental health in our family is in pieces.”
Owen went on to say that the debate was not about being “anti-fun or anti-celebrating our diverse British traditions”.
“It just can’t be right that it’s so easy to get hold of fireworks and to cause a nuisance to others. And for some fireworks just aren’t about celebrating. They’re about causing a nuisance.
“My fellow Luton MP, the member for Luton South, found boxes of used fireworks recently.
“The names of them show that this isn’t about celebration or the beauty of fireworks but about disruption. They were called Reign of Terror, and All Out War.”
Responding for the Conservative frontbench, business minister Paul Scully said the government was “committed to promoting the safe and considerate use of fireworks”.
“I really sympathise with those views and I’m always really sorry to hear the stories about some individuals and animals and how they’ve been affected in this way,” he said.
Scully said an outright ban on fireworks and the sale of fireworks to the public was “not the appropriate cause of action”, arguing that it could create a black market.