How and why a firework licensing system could work

A government select committee, 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. They received written and oral evidence representing a range of stakeholders, including from members of the public, representative bodies, organisations and charities, all with varying views on fireworks.

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 varied.

The committee stated however, that the “inconsiderate and irresponsible” use of fireworks should be considered as socially unacceptable as drink-driving.

Considering this, FAB petitioned with a radical new approach which would overcome all the Government’s reasons not to change legislation.

2020 Petition

Limit the Sale and Use of Fireworks to Organisers of Licensed Displays Only

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.

Click here to read the petition


FAB firework campaign believe that ALL fireworks used in the UK should require the user to obtain a licence. This was also put forward by multiple MPs during the debate of petition number 276425 on 2nd November 2020.

The licence only needs to cost what it costs to process online. So a very small amount.

The licence will have to be shown and the number recorded when buying fireworks, from year round licensed firework retailers.  It has been suggested that supermarkets, corner shops etc stop selling them.

The process for obtaining a licence could be the same as alcohol/music licences. From the councils’ perspective, it would need to add a few more questions to the existing form.

The conditions of licence could include:

1. Insurance if in public space ie town fireworks, scouts, etc anywhere other than your own back garden.

2. Advertisements

3. A signed assurance to confirm the site intended to be used is big enough for fireworks and not close to a road/animal rescue/stables/field with animals etc.

THE BENEFITS which will counter the Committee’s reasoning for no further legislative action and the Government’s reply to the petition at 10,000 signatures:

1. There would be no effects on community groups and fundraising.

2. Firework sales will continue as before with no economic effect on the firework industry or its employees.

3. There will be no need for any concerns regarding black market sales, communities and cultural use.

Further benefits of a licensing system:

1.People who do not like fireworks for whatever reason will have advance notice and can take evasive action or prepare, likewise pet owners.

2. Unlike a ban, charities will be able to hold their events subject to the licensing conditions.

3. Fireworks could be tracked and traced if bar coded and recorded when sold.

4. One person would be held responsible should there be any infringement of the conditions.

5. Licences can be refused or revoked if necessary.

The firework industry is amongst the most highly regulated industries. However that is only true regarding manufacture/storage and sales. This new approach would also regulate the USE of fireworks.

Moreover,  it would allow firework use by those who enjoy them whilst allowing people and pet owners to prepare and not be taken by surprise.

AND FINALLY, from the Government reply.

The government has committed to take further action to promote the safe and considerate use of fireworks and the actions will include:

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

Public awareness campaigns do NOT cause changed behaviour in people, therefore some who enjoy fireworks will not consider their neighbours as some do not consider them now. Think seatbelts (had to be made law). Think guns/knives/acid/glue. No government awareness campaign works, so laws are needed.

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

Animal charities cannot help the horses in the field scared by fireworks or dogs that slip their lead when random fireworks go off.

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

Like many statutory agencies, Local Authorities will not have had many complaints regarding fireworks. One reason could be that there is no process by which to complain. Another reason could be that it is difficult to complain about something that is legal 16 hrs a day 365 days a year. Where would a legal act be recorded?

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.

These actions show that the Government has been listening to the concerns that have been raised about fireworks and that work is continuing.

We don’t believe the government has been listening. We don’t believe they understand about firework use at random times throughout the year. We don’t believe they have considered pet owners and people who are adversely affected by random fireworks.

So all in all, the Government reply was inadequate at best and based on incorrect supposition.

We shall carry on! Join or follow FAB, on Facebook on Twitter