Legal advice: Firework legislation

Related tags Fireworks

New firework legislation could affect displays put on at your pub.By Philip Henson of's team of legal experts from solicitors Joelson...

New firework legislation could affect displays put on at your pub.

By Philip Henson of's team of legal experts from solicitors Joelson Wilson.

Did you know that the Explosives Act 1875 makes it an offence to throw or discharge fireworks in the streets? Did you know that the government considers the existing legislative measures in place regarding fireworks to be inadequate?

Did you know the government's efforts to eradicate anti-social behaviour and so-called "yob culture" includes a Department for Trade and Industry consultation paper on proposals to tackle the anti-social use of fireworks through the regulation of use and supply?

No? Well now you do. The proposals contained in the consultation paper will affect those who provide fireworks for events at their premises. Along with a draft regulation which originated from a Private Members' Bill, they seek to introduce specific prohibitions on the "importation, sale, possession and use of fireworks".

If it becomes law, the regulation will make permanent recent "emergency" regulations which prohibit the possession in a public place of adult fireworks (defined as any "firework with the exception of caps, cracker snaps, novelty matches, party poppers, serpents, sparklers or throw-downs") by anyone under the age of 18.

There are already specific legislative measures in place regarding fireworks now considered by the government to be inadequate. Indeed, a statute from 1875 (the Explosives Act) makes it an offence to throw or discharge fireworks in the streets.

The new regulation is, in part, an attempt to bring together the existing laws under a single identifiable banner. In outline, the proposed changes are:

  • a curfew on the use of fireworks between 11pm and 7am - these are designated night hours. There will be exemptions for traditional and multicultural celebrations. Permitted fireworks nights will include November 5 and New Year's Eve, as well as those celebrations of a "religious or cultural significance to constituent minorities", Diwali and Chinese New Year for example. For these exemptions permission would be extended until 2am. There would also be dispensations for firework displays for "a national public celebration or a national commemorative event"
  • a prohibition on the supply of fireworks that exceed 120 decibels in volume
  • it would become an offence for those under 18 years old to possess fireworks in a public place
  • it would be an offence for anyone who is not a fireworks professional to be in possession of professional display fireworks (known as Category Four fireworks)
  • a new licensing regime would be established whereby suppliers who wish to supply fireworks all year round will have to apply for a licence from their local authority. The cost of such a licence is likely to be £200 and their issue will be at the discretion of the licensing authority, (this could be the Health & Safety Executive, the fire service or the local authority)
  • it is currently proposed that the police will be responsible for the enforcement of possession and curfew offences. However, I envisage that this will be reconsidered at a later stage as this does not appear to have been fully agreed and it is possible instead that the responsibility of enforcement may fall on environmental health officers or community support officers. The current maximum penalty under the Fireworks Act for any person in breach of the regulations is a fine not exceeding £5,000 (Level 5) or imprisonment not exceeding six months
  • all suppliers of fireworks (whether ordered through the internet, mail order or retail) will have to display a notice stating the law relating to the sale of fireworks to minors
  • all importers of fireworks will have to provide specific information to Customs & Excise of the destination of any fireworks to crack down on illegal storage
  • procedures will be put in place to clamp down on the storage and distribution of fireworks. The Health & Safety Executive is currently drafting new regulations concerning the manufacture and storage of explosives.

The government intends that the regulation should be laid before Parliament in July, and it may become law by the end of July.

I would advise that if you are considering a private party or an event at your pub (even a private party) where you may like to have a firework display, at any time from July onwards, it would be a good idea to keep abreast of developments in the law by liaising with your local authority or police force.

The proposed changes can be viewed in more detail at or

Related topics Legislation

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