At any given time throughout the year in Bradford, there is a high, if not certain possibility, that you will hear the sound of fireworks from your home. If you are lucky, they will be faint bangs and a far-off glow at reasonable times from responsible, regulated and licensed venues, and this will be the extent of what you can see and hear. But for many families, the disturbance from fireworks is a substantially greater issue.
For these families who are subjected to these spontaneous and unlicensed fireworks when they create their thunderous explosions late at night and into the early hours of the morning above residential streets, the anti-social misuse of fireworks is far more pervasive, far more damaging, and far more disruptive, and for many, it is not an isolated occurrence. Instead, they face being kept awake by the anti-social misuse of fireworks by others night after night, unable to go to sleep safely in the assumption that they will not be woken by the sound of explosives overhead.
It is clear that we need action, but whilst the Fireworks Regulations 2004 that were introduced by the last Government almost 20 years ago imposed curfews on the use of fireworks, restricted their sale to certain times of the year for unlicensed sellers, and outlawed their use in public places, the issue remains that fireworks are still just too loosely regulated under the law.
As a result, it is near-impossible for any real action to be taken because of insufficient restrictions on the sale of fireworks, with limited powers for local councils whose hands are bound by licensing laws, and because of weak enforcement that means even if the police attend as a priority call, any incontestable evidence of firework misuse will already be gone and the police powerless to intervene.
It is therefore crucial that we see a real change in the laws around fireworks, and just last month, I urged the Government to review the permitted noise levels of every single category of fireworks that are sold, manufactured and imported into the UK, to assess the banning of categories of fireworks that are amongst the loudest and most disruptive explosives that can be sold, and to introduce tougher and tighter licensing arrangements around their sale.
However, the response from the Department for Business and Trade to my proposals stated that despite the growing complaints in Bradford about firework misuse and the ongoing misery that they cause, the Government would not even look into the proposals. The reason was not however because of any wider implications that these proposals would have, but because they believe that the existing regulations, which are failing so miserably in stopping the anti-social misuse of fireworks, are actually sufficient in reducing the disturbances.
From my meetings with Bradford Council who are unable to apply the regulations that they want to, or with West Yorkshire Police who despair at the fact that they do not have sufficient powers to pursue suspected misuse, or even with residents woken night after night by fireworks, it is clear however that the Government’s belief that the existing regulations are working once again just does not match the reality on the ground.
It is therefore no wonder that with the constant noise from fireworks that alarms their pets, keeps them awake, and disturbs their children, people are frustrated and feel like their complaints are falling on deaf ears, and I can only assume that Ministers are completely out of touch at best, or wholly indifferent to the misery that the anti-social misuse of fireworks causes people in Bradford at worst.
Whichever it is, it is nevertheless clear that we cannot go on like this any longer, so instead of sticking their head in the sand and telling us that the existing and woefully insufficient regulations are enough, the Government must back my plans for more stringent controls and restrictions on the anti-social misuse of fireworks, and help ensure that people in Bradford can get a whole night’s sleep in neighbourhoods that no longer sound like warzones.