The sale and use of fireworks in England and Wales are governed primarily by the Fireworks Regulations 2004 made under the Fireworks Act 2003. The law is basically the same in Scotland, where the 2004 Regulations also apply alongside the Fireworks (Scotland) Regulations 2004. The position is different in Northern Ireland, where a valid licence is needed to buy, possess and use fireworks (except for indoor fireworks and sparklers).

More detail is given in the Commons Library regulation of fireworks briefing paper – CBP 5704, 19 October 2021.

The petition

On 21 July 2020, an e-petition was submitted to the UK Government petitions’ website calling for the Government to legislate to “limit the sale and use of fireworks to organisers of licensed displays only.” The petition closed on 21 January 2021 with 301,610 signatures.

The text of the petition read:

“Current legislation allows for public use of fireworks 16 hours a day, every day, making it impossible for vulnerable groups to take precautions against the distress they can cause. Better enforcement of existing law is insufficient; limiting their sale & use to licensed displays only is necessary.

Restrictions on the sale & use of fireworks has huge public support and is backed by several human and animal charities. Limiting the sale & use of fireworks to displays only, by introducing licensing via local authorities, would help to protect vulnerable people and animals from the distress and anxiety caused by unexpected firework noise & pollution. Legislation that balances people’s desires for firework displays, and individual rights to not be distressed throughout the year, is needed now.”

Government response to the petition

Once the debate reached 10,000 signatures, the Government provided a written response:

“Last year, the Petitions Committee carried out an extensive inquiry into fireworks, which ran from February to November 2019. The Committee asked for evidence on the balance and effectiveness of existing legislation, the role and safety of public and private displays, and the needs of particular groups (such as veterans and people with disabilities), and animals. 

The Committee’s final report, published on 5 November 2019, concluded that they could not support a ban on the public buying and using fireworks. Their reasoning for no further legislative action was:

The likely effects on community groups and their local fundraising efforts;

The concerns about ineffectiveness of a ban and resulting unintended and counter-productive consequences for public safety;

The substantial economic effect a ban would have, in particular, on those who have built their livelihoods on the fireworks industry.

We agree with the conclusion of the Petitions Committee. In the Government’s response to the Committee, we also agreed that a ban could have the unintended consequence of pushing the market underground, driving individuals to source fireworks from illegitimate or unsafe suppliers. A ban could also prove detrimental to communities for cultural or financial reasons.

Nevertheless, the Government has committed to take further action to promote the safe and considerate use of fireworks and our actions will include:

Developing a public awareness campaign on the safe use of fireworks;

Engaging with animal charities to further discuss their work related to animal welfare issues;

Engaging with Local Authorities to understand the issues they face with regard to fireworks;

Engaging with the fireworks industry to discuss any additional action they might take to address the concerns raised around fireworks packaging appealing to underage individuals.”

Parliamentary material

Recent parliamentary questions and debates on this topic are included in the Library’s regulation of fireworks briefing paper.

  • Westminster Hall debate to consider e-petition 276425, 2 November 2020. This petition called for a ban on the general sale of fireworks to the public because of the harm and distress caused to animals and wildlife, as well as damage to the environment.
  • First Report of the Petitions Committee, Session 2019, Fireworks, HC 103
  • First Special Report of the Petitions Committee, Session 2019-21, Fireworks: Government Response to the Committee’s First Report of Session 2019, HC 242

Scottish Government publications


Bonfire Night: Garden fireworks ‘traumatise’ guide dogs and pets – BBC – 05 November 2021

Firework ban reminder ahead of Bonfire night as experts warn others to ‘consider animals’ – GlasgowLive – 05 November 2021

Distressing noise and air pollution: How your fireworks display could affect others – Press and Journal – 04 November 2021

Bonfire Night 2021: You may be slapped with a fine if you light fireworks at the wrong time – Wales Online – 04 November 2021

Bonfire Night 2021: Should firework use be restricted? – News Shopper – 04 November 2021

Fireworks displays: Chelmsford plea for one-hour limit at homes – BBC – 01 November 2021

Somerset council to lobby government over fireworks noise – BBC – 15 October 2021

Senior vets call for total ban on public sale of fireworks – Wales Online – 14 October 2021

Current laws make tackling firework menace in Bradford an ‘impossible task’ – Bradford Telegraph and Argus – 12 October 2021

Luton North MP leads MPs in battle against nuisance fireworks – Luton Today – 01 December 2020

Guy Fawkes Night caused pollution spike across England and South Wales – Guardian – 12 November 2020

Scottish minister vows to tackle antisocial use of fireworks – Guardian – 03 November 2020

Fireworks can ‘induce panic’ in vulnerable people and animals – Mid-Ulster Mail -30 January 2020

Sainsbury’s to stop selling fireworks – BBC News – 18 October 2019

Further reading

Office for Product Safety & Standards, Fireworks Evidence Base, October 2020

Do fireworks cause harm to wild birds? – RSPB – (Accessed: 05 November 2021)

Banning the public sale of fireworks – RoSPA – 18 October 2019

Festival fireworks celebrations’ health impact on vulnerable people – study – University of Birmingham – 21 January 2020

OPSS launches firework safety campaign – Office for Product Safety and Standards – 20 October 2020

How to help your autistic child cope with Bonfire Night – Patient – 31 October 2021

Top doc urges public to be safe this Bonfire Night and Diwali – NHS – 04 November 2021

Scared to death: Why we’re campaigning for change – RSPCA – (Accessed: 05 November 2021)

Related posts