The sale of fireworks is governed by The Fireworks (Safety) Regulations 1997, made under the Consumer Protection Act (1987), and the Fireworks Regulations 2004, made under the Fireworks Act (2003).  Both sets of regulations restrict the sale of certain categories of firework, specifically Category 4 fireworks as defined by British Standard 7114.  In addition, the Fireworks (Safety) Regulations 1997 restrict the sale of fireworks that come under the categories of aerial shell, shell-in-mortar, aerial maroon or maroon-in-mortar.  Previous to that time these latter categories of firework had been freely on sale to adults in the UK.  These are very attractive and popular fireworks which are widely used in firework displays.  They are freely on sale to the general public in, for example, France.  Their sale in the UK was restricted in 1997 in response to two fatalities involving people who were unwise enough not to follow the instructions whilst they were igniting the fireworks.

These fireworks are not generally suitable for use in suburban back gardens.  There are, however, many circumstances in which their use by private individuals would be appropriate, such as a community firework display run by a voluntary organisation, a country hotel wishing to offer a few fireworks for wedding parties, or just a local farmer hosting his village’s bonfire night in one of his fields. 

The categories of organisations which the 1997 regulations allow to purchase aerial shells for the purposes of firework displays are any department of the government, any local authority, any establishment of the naval, military or air forces of the Crown and any professional organiser of firework displays.  It would be a straightforward matter to extend these categories to include the possibility that a private individual could apply for a fireworks license to allow for the purchase of aerial shells, in exactly the same way that one can apply for a firearms or shotgun license.  The danger to the individual concerned is certainly not greater.  The terms under which the license is issued could be similar: having access to suitable land, providing a character reference, being interviewed by a police officer, paying a £50 fee, etc.

Why is this idea important?

The legislation as it currently stands, with its reference to government departments, local authorities and the armed forces, ensures that the state shall not be in any way inconvenienced whilst at the same time denying any rights whatsoever to the private citizen.  It would be encouraging to see it modified to give a better balance between the rights of the individual and the rights of the state.

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