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Volume 891: debated on Monday 28 April 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection when she hopes to make public the consultative document concerning fireworks; and if she will make a statement.

Copies of the consultative document on firework safety have today been sent to all the bodies whom we know to be interested. They have been invited to submit views to my Department on any aspect of the sale and use of fireworks and the possible need for altering or extending the existing controls. Copies of the document have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament and are also available on request to any other bodies or persons who may wish to comment.

I have not yet had time to study the document. Is my hon. Friend aware that only a small minority of nations have passed any fireworks legislation in the past 20 years and that we are functioning under the fireworks legislation of 100 years ago? We of all the civilised nations do what the uncivilised nations do. Is my hon. Friend aware that we have more accidents during the Guy Fawkes period than are incurred by any other nation? In view of this, will he be kind enough to give an assurance that he will receive a deputation of hon. Members and interested parties?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for imposing upon himself the unusual constraint in this House of saying that he wants to read the document before seeking to comment on it. I trust that other hon. Members will do the same. I accept his point and I am sure that he will take as an indication of our good faith the fact that I announced the intention of producing this consultative document literally within days of my Department's assuming responsibility for safety. I appreciate my hon. Friend's comments about the number of accidents and I would welcome deputations consisting of Members from either side or both sides of the House if hon. Members wish to discuss this matter with me.

Will the Minister confirm that there has been a welcome improvement in the accident record? Can he say whether the manufacturers would agree to an age limit on sales, and will he assure the House that there will be the fullest consultation before any changes in regulations or legislation are introduced?

There will certainly be the fullest consultation. I think the hon. Member will find that the document and the covering letter 1 have sent with it show that we are quite willing to look at any possibility which, if practical and sensible, will ease the situation and reduce the number of accidents. The decline in accidents is most encouraging. Last year the decline in total accidents and in serious accidents was approximately 25 per cent., but of course we should like the level to be even lower.

Will the Minister assure us that the time taken in consultations will not be simply an excuse for yet further delay before a decision is finally made?

The hon. Lady amazes me. In all the time that the Conservatives were in office, no meaningful moves were made on fireworks legislation. Within days of assuming responsibility I took action, and now she is accusing me of dilatoriness. I shall make sure that there is no unnecessary delay. We have put a time limit on the consultation and ask for all reports to be made to me by 16th June.