Luton MP vows to fight on over firework restrictions as 'misery' goes on for constituents

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Sarah Owen says she is 'disappointed' at the Government response to her Bill

A Luton MP has described the Government reaction to her Bill to toughen up firework regulations as "disappointing".

Sarah Owen, the Luton North MP, has been calling for tougher penalties in the laws on firework use. It comes after she introduced a Bill in September after being inundated with messages from people in Luton North expressing the frustration that fireworks are causing people in the town.

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A debate on the issue was triggered in Parliament on Monday after more than 300,000 people signed a petition on Parliament’s website calling for tougher limits on the sale and use of fireworks, including 320 people in Ms Owen’s Luton North constituency.

The Luton North MP is campaigning for tougher restrictions over foreworksThe Luton North MP is campaigning for tougher restrictions over foreworks
The Luton North MP is campaigning for tougher restrictions over foreworks

The Labour MP is calling for a £1,000 fine for use of any fireworks past the existing 11pm curfew as well as reducing the production, availability and access to louder fireworks for domestic use. She is also lobbying government to consult with animal welfare charities like Dogs Trust and veterans’ charities like Combat Stress, who have expressed their own concern on the impact of noisy fireworks on veterans living with PTSD.

In the debate, Ms Owen called on Conservative Ministers to back measures in her bill and requested an urgent meeting with them to make her case. The minister responding for the Conservatives, Paul Scully, reiterated his party’s scepticism to tougher restrictions on the sale of fireworks.

Ms Owen last year won praise for her campaign from the Dogs Trust after leading over two dozen MPs in calling for an urgent review of current regulations around the sale and use of fireworks.

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A 2018 Dog Trust survey of 2,000 members of the general public showed that: 89% agreed domestic pets can be distressed by fireworks; 79% said they keep their pets inside to limit distress caused by fireworks; and over 50% believed fireworks should be restricted to official displays only. The charity adds that “easy access to fireworks and poor enforcement of existing legislation is having a detrimental impact on dog welfare”.

Sarah Owen in Parliament on MondaySarah Owen in Parliament on Monday
Sarah Owen in Parliament on Monday

Ms Owen introduced her new Bill to Parliament, passing its first stage in September 2021. The Misuse of Fireworks Bill will proceed to its next stage in January if Conservative Ministers ensure that it is timetabled on the parliamentary agenda. Despite the government’s opposition to tougher restrictions in firework sales, the Luton North MP has said she will continuing working with Labour colleagues to lobby the government to listen and act to the voices of residents in Luton and across the country.

Ms Owen said in the debate: “Over the past few months, I have been inundated by people getting in touch to ask that MPs make it harder for fireworks to cause chaos to their lives. That is why I introduced a private Member’s Bill to tackle the misuse of fireworks. It is clear that the law needs to change. Ahead of Second Reading of my Bill early next year, I hope to include a minimum £1,000 fine for use of any fireworks past the existing 11 pm curfew and to reduce the production and availability of louder fireworks, as well as access to them. Importantly, the Government must consult on the impact of fireworks with veterans’ charities such as Combat Stress and animal welfare charities such as the RSPCA and Dogs Trust.”

But Tory Government spokesperson Paul Scully refused to back tougher restrictions on sale of fireworks saying: “We have concerns that banning fireworks in that way could have significant adverse and unintended consequences for public safety.

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“There is a 120 dB noise limit on fireworks available to consumers. Retailers are restricted to only selling consumer fireworks during a limited period around each of the seasonal celebrations that I just referred to, and retailers may only supply fireworks to the public outside those periods if they obtain a licence from their local licensing authority.”

Ms Owen replied: “People want to feel safe and secure in their own neighbourhoods. I’m really disappointed the Tory ministers feel sceptical of tougher restrictions on fireworks, because people from Luton getting in touch with me are telling me a different story. All year, but especially this time of year, I receive so many messages from people in Luton North expressing the misery that anti-social use of fireworks is causing for them in the town.”

“Last year, I met with local police to find out what they’re doing to tackle the issue. However, without the proper powers and resource from central government, it’s a tough problem to tackle. That’s why I’m leading a campaign in Parliament for the law to change.”

“As a mum of a toddler and dog owner, I know evenings and nights during this time of year can be a nightmare for constituents with fireworks going off at all hours.

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“This isn’t about being anti-fun. But when fireworks being used are called things like ‘Reign of Terror’ and ‘All Out War’, it’s clear that this isn’t about the fun of fireworks but fear. I’m not against proper licenced displays to celebrate a Great British tradition like Bonfire Night, or New Year. What I am against is people misusing fireworks, often untrained, causing chaos and fear for residents and animals.”

“It’s time for the government to take action. It’s disappointing that the government wouldn’t listen to residents and refuses to back tougher restrictions on sales, but I hope they make time to consider my bill.”

Are fireworks a problem in your area still? Email [email protected]