Clause 11 - Offences

Fireworks Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 30th April 2003.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Conservative, South West Bedfordshire

I shall briefly raise a couple of points that were raised on Second Reading. Perhaps the Minister can give me some comfort as to what

could be done about them. The Fireworks (Safety) Regulations 1997 are not particularly effective. There is a problem with the inability to hand out on-the-spot fines to those aged under 18. My district council in south Bedfordshire has told me that it cannot take action against offenders unless the offence is persistent, which quite often it is not. I wonder whether that issue could be worked into the Bill or other legislation coming before the House. I should be grateful for any comments from the Minister about how those aspects of current law are not serving us well.

Photo of Miss Melanie Johnson Miss Melanie Johnson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry

I believe that on-the-spot fines can be imposed on over-18s under one of the fairly recent Home Office Acts; I do not think that it is the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. There is an additional defence for suppliers relating to the prohibition on supplying fireworks to young persons that may be introduced by regulations under clause 3. We propose to make on-the-spot fines for the under-18s possible. That would enable us to tackle many age ranges with which current legislation does not help us.

The 1997 regulations deal only with issues relating to the supply of fireworks, not their use. That may be what the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire has in mind. The Explosives Act 1875 is the current legislation in respect of letting fireworks off in a public place. As I said, I think that we introduced on-the-spot fines for the over-18s following recent Home Office legislation. We will want fixed penalty provision for under-18s, not only for abusing fireworks but for many other forms of antisocial behaviour such as breaking windows.

Photo of Shona McIsaac Shona McIsaac Labour, Cleethorpes

The hon. Member for Blaby said that it was already an offence to let a firework off in the street but he doubted whether anyone had ever been ''done'' for that activity. I wonder whether other hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Minister, received a letter from Coventry city council detailing how Coventry police officers were the first in the west midlands to impose on-the-spot fines for throwing fireworks in the street. That scheme is successful and we should extend it, rather than just having pilot schemes. The council also says that it has a mystery shopper campaign—I presume that that is through trading standards legislation—that has netted several retailers selling fireworks to children, and it has prosecuted for that. Regulations can be effective and I hope that those successes are echoed throughout Britain when the Bill is enacted.

Photo of Miss Melanie Johnson Miss Melanie Johnson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry

My hon. Friend is right. Some of the pilots have encouraged us to think that on-the-spot fines and fixed penalties will work and will provide a rapid route to penalising those who break the law in that way. The police and other enforcement authorities will find it a useful tool. In relation to the other point made by my hon. Friend, it is important that we recognise that we can take the proposal forward and ensure that it is a success.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 11 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 12 to 15 ordered to stand part of the Bill.