Should private garden fireworks be banned?

Last year more than 1,000 accidents resulted from our love of Guy Fawkes night. Next Sunday, millions will go out to play with fire again
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Amanda Redman debates the issue with Robin Corbett

Amanda Redman debates the issue with Robin Corbett

Amanda Redman I spent the first five years of my life in burns units in hospitals all over the country and was allowed out only on special occasions like Christmas or special holidays.

Oddly enough, one of my earliest memories is of Bonfire Night - staring out of the hospital's windows, along with the other children on my ward, and looking into people's gardens to see the fireworks being let off.

It's a poignant memory, particularly at this time of year when families all over the country are getting ready to celebrate not only Bonfire Night, but Diwali.

It's such a magical, magical night. It is part of our culture and tradition. But my God, within seconds, an atrocity can happen. I would like to see more responsibility being taken.

We need a safety drive, of the same kind we see at Christmas with drink-driving. The Government needs to dip into its pocket and ensure that this happens. It would save millions of pounds in the long run - not just in terms of cash with emergency services and hospitals being freed up, but also in terms of lives. I would not, however, like to see Bonfire Night or the use of fireworks banned.

 

Robin Corbett I have long held the view that the sale of fireworks over the counter should be banned. I'd restrict their use to properly organised public displays and have none available over the counter. Every year I get a string of complaints about fireworks, and there is some evidence that irresponsible adults buy them for children. Nor do I think that a ban on sale of fireworks over the counter would undermine our culture. We are continuing our culture, but in a safer way.

 

AR With Bonfire Night looming, did you know that fireworks displays let off near foliage, barbecues and the like could cause great damage, not just to one person, but to whole parties of people? It is imperative that people are educated and the Government needs to take responsibility for this. Guidelines need to be issued as to how private display parties should be conducted - from the far end of the garden, well away from the house, and with the kids kept well back.

RC Even if parents run displays responsibly, this wouldn't solve the problem in that it does not control the misuse of fireworks in public places. As usual, it's not the responsible majority who are the problem - it is the irresponsible minority. The only way to stop misuse of fireworks is to make them unavailable.

Maybe the way into this is to let local people decide whether there should be a ban. The Government argues that the ban of fireworks would lead to a black market or to people making them at home, but I don't buy that because if there are going to be home-made fireworks, what about the 11-month period they are not available? A ban would be immensely popular in cities because fireworks cause such a nuisance - particularly for the elderly. There are always some yobs who will terrify them. From about mid-October the letters of complaint about the fireworks nuisance start arriving. Trading standards do what they can but they cannot be everywhere.

 

AR The press also needs to take some of the responsibility and provide safety adverts free of charge. And the firms that make fireworks should be given guidelines on labelling. Each and every single banger or sparkler ought to have vivid instructions, not only on use but also on safety, and they should all carry warnings and list all possible hazards clearly - not in a tiny corner of the box.

 

Amanda Redman is an actress and patron of the Children's Burns Trust. Robin Corbett is Labour MP for Birmingham Erdington and chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee.

Comments