Out With the Bang: It is Time to Limit the Noise Levels of Fireworks Available in Shops

It’s an ordinary weeknight. It’s past 11pm and, after a hard day at work, you are relaxing at home, or perhaps you’ve already gone to bed. Just as you are drifting off to sleep, the silence is broken by a barrage of loud explosions outside the window. You are startled awake, and your dog starts to bark in fear. It is not a public holiday or special event, and you know that, like on so many other nights, it is going to continue for hours.
This is now a familiar story for countless people right across the country. Fireworks, which can be such a source of fun for so many people, are being misused recklessly by others, and it is causing misery.

As the Member of Parliament serving the people of Bradford South, I have become well acquainted with stories of the harm that the illegal and antisocial use of fireworks can cause.

The situation can be relentless. As one constituent described, the fireworks are “literally window-pane shaking, four times a week, week after week.”

This issue is spread right across this country. A petition calling for the complete ban on the sale and use of fireworks to the public reached over 300,000 signatures in 2021. It also called for a balance between people’s desire for firework displays, with the individual right not to be distressed.

Fireworks misuse can be particularly harmful for those with health conditions and disabilities. My constituents have raised with me the impact on people with anxiety, whilst others have highlighted the horrific impact on ex-servicemen suffering from PTSD.

With police forces over-stretched and under-resourced, the response to antisocial or illegal use of fireworks can be limited. By the time the disturbance is reported, and police arrive, there is often little that can be done. The crime has literally gone up in smoke.

The most recent Parliamentary Committee to investigate the issue confirmed that local authorities and police witnesses found that ‘enforcing fireworks law was challenging.’

With the law as it exists now being inadequate, it is time that Parliament considered new ways to address the harm caused by antisocial and illegal fireworks use.

The issue must be approached in an inventive way. Parliament must balance the rights of people who use fireworks responsibly, with those who do not wish to be unfairly disturbed.
For this reason, this week, I introduced the Fireworks (Noise Limit) Bill, aiming to reduce the maximum noise limit of fireworks that can be bought by the public.

As it stands, the maximum noise level of a firework stands at an ear-ringing 120 decibels. This is equivalent to the sound of a pneumatic drill, or a chainsaw.

My Bill would reduce this maximum to a much more sensible 90 decibels, equivalent to an alarm clock, or a hair dryer.

This small difference could make a world of change for people right across the country.

By stopping people from being able to buy loud fireworks in the first place, the disruptive impact and noise footprint of fireworks used antisocially would be reduced – tackling the issue whilst reducing pressures on police forces.

It would also protect pets and animals, whose sensitive hearing can make loud noise all the more distressing.

When noise limits were initially set in this country, the 120 decibel limit was based on studies on humans, not animals.

The RSPCA is supporting my Bill, arguing that “by introducing measures like this, we can better priorities the safety and well-being of animals and vulnerable people.”

One constituent told me that her dog “shakes at the sound of the fireworks… when we try to cuddle and calm her down nothing works… I’ve even been to the door shouting ‘please stop’.”

It is clear to me, as it should be to colleagues across Parliament, that action is required to deal with these scenes of real distress.
As one person living in Bradford South put it to me: “It is a disgrace that animals and humans have to suffer this.”
As it stands, the situation is intolerable. There are real, practical steps that lawmakers can take to alleviate this situation.

It is time that the Government took notice of this issue, adopted my Fireworks Bill, and proved that they are committed to tackling crime and antisocial behaviour on our streets.

Judith Cummins MP

Judith Cummins is the Labour MP for Bradford South, and was elected in 2015.