MP Letter Ideas

Unfortunately the firework problem is not going away and therefore neither am I. I am currently working with a campaign group FireworkABatement who have a government petition running to change the current legislation governing the use of fireworks in this country. We have the fastest growing facebook page ever, with 1—–  members and counting. The petition is currently at —— and is rising at a rate of approximately  —- signatures every day. —- of those signatures are from your constituency, so whilst I maybe the only one contacting you directly I am not the only one unhappy with the current firework season.

We are collating all reports of fireworks being set off from our members and the reports are coming in so thick and fast that our admin team struggles to keep up. Our sister page Firework Damage is collating the reports of the damage being caused by fireworks, both firsthand accounts and those that have been in the news. So I have some numbers for you. These have all happened in the past couple of weeks, since just before Halloween:-

Property damaged

Building burnt down in Tottenham

Field shelter burnt to a shell, horse only just rescued in time

House damaged by a rocket going into the bathroom

Explosion in Leeds – firework thrown through window.

Injuries

One dog

Two horses

3 yr old boy taken to A and E after being hit by stray firework

3 teenagers hit by fireworks at Formby display

Elderly lady in Loughton treated for serious burns after lit firework was put through her letterbox.

Deaths

One foal

One unborn foal

Six cows

Three horses

Five dogs

Four rabbits

One guinea pig

One cat after a lit firework was deliberately inserted into its rectum

Deliberate attacks

Fourteen year old boy burnt on neck, chest and hair after firework thrown at him

Fireworks thrown at moving cars in Rotherham

Police attacked with fireworks at a Yorkshire house party

Police attacked with fireworks in Sheffield

PCSO burnt when attacked with fireworks in Enfield

Tesco delivery man – lit firework thrown at van

Firefighters attacked in Stoke

Police horses injured in London riots

Fireworks thrown at the Blackpool/Huddersfield football match

50 yobs attack a group of special needs students in Doncaster

Firefighters attacked in Sheffield

Soughton Mains – police attacked with fireworks

Tyne and Wear – 3 kids on horseback had fireworks thrown at them.

There is a SERIOUS problem with fireworks in this country. Those are the major incidents that have been reported. They don’t even begin to touch on the number of people who have suffered immense distress and will continue to do so into the new year. Our group has been contacted by numerous families of war veterans suffering from PTSD for whom this time of year is literally hell as the constant explosions trigger major flashbacks to the war zones they served in. Their family members are in despair as they watch their loved ones reduced to shaking, crying wrecks night after night. In the worst cases it can cause a complete disassociation with reality. This goes on virtually every night for three months.

We have also been contacted by families with autistic children, again struggling to cope night after night as their children become agitated and distressed by the unexpected and random nature of the explosions. It can often take hours for them to calm down, only for them to have to go through the same thing again the next night, and the next and the next.

Then there are many elderly people for whom this time of year is frightening and distressing. A couple of years ago I found my elderly neighbour outside her house beside herself with panic as she thought we were being bombed and she couldn’t find anything to black out her windows. She was panicking because she thought she was going to be responsible for her neighbours being killed. I have heard many similar stories since joining this group.

I suggest you look at our sister page Firework Damage and read the human stories behind the numbers.

So far the responses from all the MPs that have been contacted have been virtually the same – we are a minority, it is a tradition and there is already a law in place. The fact is the current legislation is as effective as a chocolate teapot. The figures that we are collating show that the curfews in place by the law are pretty much ignored with fireworks regularly being set off after midnight, 1am, 4am. And there is nothing the police can do because it is very difficult to pinpoint the noise as the sound of legal level fireworks travels roughly a mile. And bull fighting is a tradition, that doesn’t make it right.

On top of that the events over the past few weeks with fireworks being used as weapons against the police, firefighters and the public cast serious doubt upon your statement that the public is capable of using fireworks responsibly. Readily supplying the public with explosives is sheer folly. The CAA released figures in the last couple of weeks confirming 80 near misses and a number of direct hits on passenger jets. Most from careless firework displays but at least 8 were direct hits from deliberate attacks.

It is time that the government sat up and faced reality, there is a huge problem with fireworks in this country. Even the so called responsible displays in people’s back gardens cause untold distress and harm to those within a mile or so. One MP has remarked that he thinks it would be unfair to stop people being able to buy fireworks – but how is it fair for people to have them forced on them? It is the only antisocial behaviour that I know of that is not only allowed, but appears to be endorsed by the government. So I have to question why the apathy and reluctance by our MPs to stand up for the people affected? Surely at the very least our veterans deserve your protection? There are only two reasons I can come up with. The first is the ‘I’m alright Jack’ syndrome, if it doesn’t directly affect you then it isn’t important – you don’t have riots in your constituency so why bother about the distress caused. Or is it once again money? I assume the government makes a fair amount of money from the VAT on the sale of fireworks.

The campaign is growing in numbers all the time, the amount of people negatively affected, harmed and injured by fireworks cannot go on being ignored. To ignore the issue of fireworks and to write us off as simply a minority is irresponsible and negligent.

Please do not answer my concerns with another apology or insult my intelligence with another banal quote from the current, pointless legislation. I have already had those from yourself, Vince Cable and John Whittingdale, as have most members of the group from their MPs.

Instead I want to know how many have to suffer injury, loss or emotional trauma before you consider us to be a big enough section of the population to be counted as important. We are not killjoys, but we do believe that at no point should one person’s fun and entertainment be more important than another’s suffering.

All we are asking for is stricter regulation on the number of days that the public can set fireworks of, or restrict the use of rockets, mines and bangers for use at public displays only so that private displays are virtually silent. There are precedents for these kinds of restrictions being successful e.g. Denmark and Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland only had six firework related injuries. The UK will have well over a thousand before the season has finished.

Angela Smith MP Sheffield

I am writing to you as a representative for the Facebook campaign group FireworkABatement (FAB). We are the fastest growing facebook group ever (11, 775 members in 35 days) and are pushing an online petition asking for the tightening up of firework legislation which is at 38,608 and is growing at a rate of roughly 4000 signatures a day.

The awful scenes that happened in Sheffield and London last night highlight a serious problem with fireworks in this country. There appears to be an increase in the use of them as weapons (if you look at our sister page on facebook Firework Damage we have been collating stories and incidents as they are reported – the list is staggering).

However, this is a new twist to the problem with fireworks and is not even the reason the group originally started. It used to be that Bonfire night was just that, a night. Now, however, we have firework ‘season’ that stretches from mid October to mid January and in many areas it is virtually constant every night for over seventy nights.

The distress and trauma caused to animals by fireworks is well documented with many animals utterly terrified, many to the point of injuring themselves or even to the point of death – there have been numerous deaths of horses, dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs since Halloween weekend directly attributable to fireworks and the season has only just started. There has even been a highly disturbing case of a cat that has had to be euthanised after a firework was inserted into its backend.

However, what is less well publicised is the effect fireworks have on different groups of vulnerable people. War veterans suffering from PTSD suffer terribly at this time of year with the explosions triggering powerful flashbacks, autistic children find the random nature of the explosions very difficult to cope with, becoming very agitated and distressed, and elderly people on their own can also struggle at this time of year. This suffering goes on endlessly for three months. The reports of fireworks going off outside of the 5th November have come in so thick and fast that our admin team have struggled to keep up and their computers have almost crashed.

We very much welcome your statement that you intend to bring up the need for tighter legislation in Parliament. Many of our members have been in contact with their local MPs and Mr Whittingdale addressing our concerns. Every single one has received a standard response of ‘there is nothing they can do, we have no intention of changing the current legislation’, our concerns just brushed under the carpet.

The use and abuse of fireworks is now out of control in this country and something has to be done. The misery, distress and injury caused by them is unacceptable. The precedent has been set by other countries recently for example Denmark and Northern Ireland have both introduced strict new controls, last year the total injury rate for Northern Ireland was six.

So the basic gist of this very long winded email is to let you know that we fully support your action in bringing this problem to Parliament.

Please look at our pages, or contact us for more information about what we are looking to achieve with the petition and we wish you the best of luck bringing this issue up,

Remember, remember the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot’. Remember when it was just the 5th of November? When a firework display was something organised by a group, put on by a professional company, that parents took their children to for a night out, for that night and only that night?

Somehow, we have moved from firework night to firework season – three whole months starting mid October and running to mid January. Fireworks are now used to celebrate everything from weddings, christenings and half term to just an ordinary Monday or Wednesday night with fireworks readily available for members of the public to buy, often with discounts or half price deals for the periods around November the 5th and New Year. Under the current legislation, it is legal to set off fireworks anytime between 7am and 11pm (midnight for 5th November and New Year’s Eve, 1am for Diwali) any day during the year as long as it’s not in a public place.

The FireworkABatement Campaign group is looking to change the current legislation to restrict the sale and use of fireworks to return to the traditional date of the 5th November as well as Diwali, Chinese New Year and New Year’s Eve. The campaign group is the fastest growing facebook group ever and the government petition is currently at 62,000 signatures and is increasing at a rate of around 2000 signatures per day. We are not looking to ban fireworks, but to introduce a compromise which will allow those who enjoy fireworks to do so, whilst minimising the impact on those who don’t want to. Something that the current legislation doesn’t do.

The negative impact that fireworks have on pets, farm animals and wildlife is well documented and this is why the group and the petition was originally set up, hence the wording on the petition. The constant explosions cause untold fear and suffering in many pets including dogs, cats, horses, rabbits and guinea pigs. Unfortunately, in the worst cases it results in the death of the animal, this year alone the number of animals killed as a direct result of fireworks is into double figures including a cat that was deliberately attacked with a lit firework, and there is still almost two months to go.

However, as the campaign has progressed and the group has increased to more than 16,000 members we have discovered that the range of people whose lives are seriously impacted by the excessive use of fireworks is far wider than expected.

Families of ex-servicemen suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder have contacted the group, expressing their gratitude that this issue is finally being highlighted. For a veteran suffering from PTSD, the fireworks sound like gunshots and explosions. At the less extreme end of the spectrum, they can still rationalise that it is fireworks, whilst experiencing feelings of anxiety and panic as they anticipate the next explosion. At the most extreme end of the spectrum it can cause such a strong flashback that they become totally separated from reality as they find themselves reliving the horrors of the war zones that they served in.

In the words of one of our supporters, a veteran’s wife whose husband suffers from PTSD and who therefore sees the effects first hand, ‘the simple answer is that it is not only the bang of the firework. It’s the smell, the flash and if he is close enough, the feel of them going off as well. It simply takes him back to a war zone situation, which in turn means more than the usual amount of nightmare and flashbacks. Cold sweats, anxiety induced IBS, hyper-vigilance, fear of not being in control. Living with PTSD daily is enough but to have the added bonus of a couple of months of fireworks just takes its toll’.

We have also been contacted by the families of children with autism. Autistic children find the unexpected and random nature of fireworks very difficult to cope with and it can cause them to become extremely distressed and agitated, often not calming down for hours. This in turn creates a great deal of stress for the parents trying to calm their children, knowing that this is going to happen night after night after night for three months.

Every time someone sets off an explosion in their garden (the legal limit is 120db), they inflict it on everyone around them for half a mile or so and there is no escaping the noise. When they are only used for the occasions mentioned above, it is only four nights of the year. When it is only four specific nights it is possible for people to be prepared, to ensure their pets are safely indoors, medicated if necessary, or to go away for a couple of days to get away from the noise. When it is every night for three months it is impossible to prepare for.

One person’s entertainment should not come at the price of another’s misery or peace of mind.

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