Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Haskel: I am unable to respond to the noble Lord's question. We shall have to do some research. I do not have that information in front of me.

I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Rees, who raised the question of what is a firework, that it is also important that we can deal with devices such as birdscarers and marine flares, which can be misused if they fall into the wrong hands. A power is needed to adjust this aspect of the definition if it becomes apparent that there is loophole which can be exploited. It is this exploitation of loopholes which is the concern of the Government. I can assure the Committee again that the power will be used only in those circumstances.

It may also be helpful if I comment here on the similar powers to alter the definition of "explosives" in Clause 14(3), on which the Select Committee also commented. The Clause 14 powers arise because of our desire to be able to stay in step with the changes likely to be made to the Explosives Act 1875 under the powers given by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. I believe that ultimately we should aim to replace the 1875 Act altogether. Explosives have changed somewhat in the past 120 years. Most of the provisions concern safety at work, but some involve issues of public safety which go beyond the 1974 Act. I can assure the Committee that the powers to amend that definition are there only to ensure that we have the same ability to respond to changes in the kind of explosives where we need such controls.

There is also a "technical" reason for the power. If the 1875 Act is replaced in due course by a single set of regulations with a single definition of "explosives" which re-enacts the definition in the 1875 Act, that definition will apply automatically for the purposes of the Bill. But if the single definition is a substantially modified one or, if there are several definitions, it may be unclear which definition applies to the Bill. As a result, we may need to amend the definition in the Bill to make sure that we have the right one for the Bill's limited purposes.

I hope that that explanation and the assurances I have given will be acceptable to Members of the Committee and that they will feel that these amendments are unnecessary.

Lord Rees: Before the Minister sits down, he has been courteous in referring to the points we have made, but he did not refer to the second point I made on the definition in and application of subsection (1)(b). I do not wish to weary the Committee, but it looks to me as though Clause 1(1) provides two alternative definitions, as devices which

in the alternative,

    "would be fireworks for those purposes if they were intended as a form of entertainment".

5 May 1998 : Column 564

Perhaps I did not make the point with sufficient clarity. Perhaps the Minister could explain to me. It surely must be possible to have something closer than that. It cannot mean any device that is intended as a form of entertainment. Can the Minister reassure me and perhaps other Members of the Committee about the application of subsection (1)(b)?

Lord Haskel: I believe that the word "purposes" in subsection (1)(b) refers back to the purposes in subsection (1)(a), which says:

    "for the purposes of the British Standard Specification relating to fireworks published on 30th November 1998 ..."

Lord Rees: I apologise to the Committee and to the noble Lord the Minister. If the Minister reads the clause again slowly, he will see:

    "(1) In this Act 'fireworks' means devices which--

    "(a) are fireworks for the purposes of the British Standard Specification ..."

That one can understand; "or", in the alternative,

    "(b) would be fireworks for those purposes if they were intended as a form of entertainment".

I should be most grateful if the Minister could explain what further limitation must be read into that to make certain that it does not apply to any device which is intended as a form of entertainment.

Lord Haskel: It is the same test as in the British Standard Specification. I read the definition contained in that specification to the noble Lord. The fireworks referred to in subsection (1)(b) have the same definition as those referred to in subsection (1)(a).

Viscount Astor: If subsection (1)(a) is the same as subsection (1)(b), why do we need both? Why can we not have just subsection (1)(a)?

Lord Gisborough: When I was young there used to be a little game where one would put a match into a matchbox and hold another match against it; you would light both and they stuck together. That was for entertainment. Would those be fireworks?

Lord Haskel: I am not an expert on these matters and I cannot respond to that question.

Lord Renton: Will the noble Lord the Minister be so good as to give us even a broad idea of what is included in the word "entertainment"? Should it not be defined in the Bill? In some kinds of legislation it is carefully defined. Here it is used in the broadest possible sense. I believe that there should be a definition.

Lord Haskel: I believe that the definition of entertainment is fairly well known and obvious.

Viscount Astor: I apologise for rising again. I believe that the Minister said that the definition in subsection (1)(b) is the same as that in subsection (1)(a). In that case, why do we need the two? The Minister would help

5 May 1998 : Column 565

the Committee if he could explain the differences between subsections (1)(a) and (1)(b) and what they refer to.

Lord Haskel: Subsections (1)(a) and (1)(b) are not alternatives. "Fireworks" means devices within the definition in the British Standard and devices which would be fireworks if they were intended as a form of entertainment. Both of those things are fireworks as defined.

Lord Monkswell: It may be helpful if at this stage I intervene to try to wrap up this very interesting debate. The noble Lord, Lord Kimball, moved his amendment in an admirably brief way, and, bearing in mind the time constraints on the Committee stage, that was very good of him. We have had an interesting and useful debate. Members on the Opposition Benches have demonstrated the Committee at its best in raising issues of considerable public concern about the way in which we frame legislation. I shall try to offer some reassurances, as the promoter of the Bill in this place, as to the way it is envisaged the Bill will work.

I make particular reference to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, who was very concerned about the regulation-making powers in the Bill. I would describe them in two ways. First, there are the Henry VIII provisions in Clauses 1 and 14. Secondly, the other regulation-making provisions are almost a straight copy from the Consumer Protection Act and are fairly usual and normal in the course of parliamentary procedure and deliberations on public Bills.

I believe that the reference to the Henry VIII provisions in Clauses 1 and 14 was appreciated by the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee and there was a recognition by that committee that fireworks are a special case. The very fact that we have the Bill in front of us is a testament to that. Previous legislation has not provided enough powers for Ministers to ensure absolute safety for the public in terms of the use of fireworks.

The provisions in Clauses 1 and 14 are tightly prescribed in terms of the Minister's ability, by regulation, to change the definition of "fireworks". For example, bird scarers may not be explosive in their make-up but they may make a loud bang. If they were used as forms of entertainment, they would come under Clause 1(b). Another factor is the ability to change the definition of "fireworks" if circumstances change. Bearing in mind that we are now part of the European Union, the British standard and subsequent amended versions of it will become a European standard. That definition of "fireworks" will become a European definition which may not be relevant for our specific UK situation. The provision gives the Government the power to amend the situation to cover that.

We received ministerial assurances which, as was pointed out, are government assurances. One hopes that they will satisfy the Committee. I am sure that they will satisfy the aspirations of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee.

5 May 1998 : Column 566

Perhaps I can make one final point. We have had an interesting debate in relation to these important issues. It is my intention, as the Committee stage progresses, to leave ministerial assurances, as requested by the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee, to the Minister. It is not in my power to give those assurances and there may be other amendments where I shall want to speak at greater length. Bearing in mind the assurances that were given and the explanation I attempted to give to Members of the Committee, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Kimball, will withdraw his amendment.

8.30 p.m.

Lord Henley: Before the noble Lord sits down and my noble friend Lord Kimball responds, perhaps I can make one point. The noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, talked of addressing the concerns of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee. I am not particularly interested in addressing those concerns. We need to address the concerns of the Committee itself.

We spoke to Amendments Nos. 1 and 2. But a number of Members of the Committee, including my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway, referred to Amendment No. 13 as a second best if the noble Lord was not prepared to accept the proposal concerning subsection (2) which removes the first of the Henry VIII powers. Will the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, address the anxieties raised by my noble friend Lord Campbell and say whether he is prepared to accept Amendment No. 13. I say that in an attempt to expedite the business of the Committee bearing in mind the time constraints under which we are working.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page