PYROTECHNIC ARTICLES (13565/05)
Letter from Jim Fitzpatrick MP, Minister
for Employment Relations and Postal Services, Department of Trade
and Industry to the Chairman
I refer to your letter of 26 January 2006
addressed to Gerry Sutcliffe. I am replying as this matter now
falls within my portfolio.
I should also like to apologise for the delay
in replying, this is due to the fact that until the Finnish Presidency
there had been no discussion on the text in the Council. The Presidency
has now held six Council Working Groups; the European Parliament
plenary is scheduled for 14-15 November with political agreement
penciled in for the Competitiveness Council on 4-5 December. At
present we do not have a new official text from the Council.
The Government maintains its line that whilst
it was initially against this proposal it has become clear that
there are benefits of trade harmonisation that will be gained,
particularly by the manufacturers of automotive pyrotechnic articles
(car-air bag detonators etc) and film/theatre/television pyrotechnics,
where each Member State currently has very different legislation
which needs to be complied with before market entry can be gained.
Even in the area of fireworks, the proposal will open opportunities
in other European markets that have not existed or where entry
has been extremely hard before. However, our discussions with
the firework industry have indicated that the current situation
on cross-border fireworks trade is unlikely to change very much
if this proposal is adopted.
The draft changes proposed to the text by the
European Parliament in respect of automotive pyrotechnic articles
give these products much greater prominence in the text. It is
felt that as automotive pyrotechnic articles are not generlaly
available to members of the public the labelling requirements
should reflect this and be aimed at the professional use and installation.
We understand from manufacturers of such devices that they have
found entry into other EU markets extremely difficult in the past.
It is expected that this proposal will significantly improve the
competitiveness of this sector of the European automotive industry.
Pyrotechnic articles used in film, theatre and
television also have an improved definition and again as these
are used only by people with specialist knowledge, the labelling
requirements reflect this. Members of the CBI's Explosives Industry
Group with an interest in film, theatre and television pyrotechnics
articles have also indicated a potential benefit from a harmonised
As for fireworks, which will make up the majority
of products covered and sold under the scope of proposal, we are
still of the opinion that little will change as far as improved
EU market access is concerned. An amendment to the proposal suggested
by the European Parliament does recognise that fireworks which
are similar in design, function or behaviour but different in
colour can be tested as product families. This should make a positive
impact on the potential testing and compliance costs for fireworks.
The text still recognises that the use of fireworks is subject
to markedly different cultural customs and traditions in different
Member States. This makes it necessary to allow Member States
to take national measures to limit the use or sale of certain
categories of fireworks to the general public on grounds of public
security or safety. A proposed European Parliament amendment also
adds noise or nuisance to this list. The text also allows Member
States to maintain their existing bans taken on those grounds.
In practice, this means that Member States are likely to maintain
the status quo in their territories, maintaining existing bans
and use requirements which will not free-up the market for new
The harmonisation of standards for all types
of pyrotechnic articles is an essential requirement for the creation
of a single market. However, in respect of fireworks, there is
nothing new from Council Working Party discussions that indicates
that this proposal will significantly improve consumer protection
in Member States. As far as we have been able to ascertain the
majority of injuries in Member States occur because the way fireworks
are used or their inappropriate use rather than badly designed
or manufactured fireworks. For example, it is traditional that
fireworks are let off in the (often crowded) streets in the Netherlands
on New Year's Eve and the Queen's Birthday. Spain also has a tradition
of festivals and events where fireworks are let off in public
places. Not surprisingly, the majority of injuries in these countries
occur in the street or other public places. Nothing in this proposal
will change these traditional uses and the injuries associated
with them. Use of fireworks in the streets in the UK is of course
forbidden, and, in our view, it is national measures similar to
the UK's against the misuse of fireworks that would improve consumer
protection in respect of injuries. However such measures are beyond
the scope of a European Directive on the marketing and use of
You sought clarification on what is meant by
a one-off (particularly set-piece fireworks). A one-off firework
might be a firework like a lattice that displays "Happy Birthday
Agatha" etc. Although the makers of such lattice work would
be professional and use the same components for each one, just
spelling out different names etc, the text of the proposal requires
each of these lattices to comply with the Directive. At present
there is no easy route to compliance for these type of fireworks,
however a European Parliament proposal suggests that if they are
made for the manufacturer's own use in the territory of the manufacturer
they are not regarded as being placed on the market and not within
the scope of the Directive.
The European Commission considers that Community
action is justified in subsidiarity terms as the Pyrotechnics
Directive ensures the free movement, within the Community, of
pyrotechnic articles falling within its scope. The proposal aims
to avoid discrepancies in national legislation caused by problems
of interpretation, while allowing Member States to maintain national
measures on specific categories of pyrotechnic articlesfireworkson
the grounds of public safety, security or public order. As such,
the Commission's claim that they have competence in this area
appears justified. The Government considers that the principle
of subsidarity is adequately reflected in the approach of these
proposals, and that the measures proposed are appropriate for
Community level action.
6 November 2006
Letter from the Chairman to Jim Fitzpatrick
Thank you for your letter of 6 November 2006
which addressed the issues on this proposed Directive that we
raised in my letter to Mr Gerry Sutcliffe MP of 26 January 2006.
Sub-Committee G considered this at their meeting held on 8 March
We accept your assurances that there are benefits
to be gained from the proposed Directive in terms of promoting
the more effective operation of a single market in some of these
products, particularly in the case of car air-bag detonators.
In the case of sale and use of fireworks, we
understand the point that, while the proposed legislation will
be useful to facilitate easier cross-border trade in professional
displays, it will not have any significant impact on the protection
of consumers from the misuse of fireworks. Such legislation, to
protect consumers from their own misuse of fireworks, is for Member
States to enact and is beyond the scope of the Commission's competence.
We are reassured by your explanation that this
is not, however, a concern for the Government since existing UK
legislation, which already protects consumers from the misuse
of fireworks to a greater extent than could be envisaged under
the Directive, will not be affected.
We understand that this proposal is likely to
come up for political agreement at a Competitiveness Council meeting
in March or April, and we ask you to let us known the form in
which the proposal is put to that Council meeting and the outcome
of the meeting. On this basis, therefore, we are content to release
this document from scrutiny.
8 March 2007
Letter from Rt Hon Ian McCartney MP, Minister
for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs, Department of Trade
and Industry/Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the Chairman
Thank you for your letter of 8 March 2007 advising
me that the above Proposal was considered and cleared by Sub Committee
G on that date.
As requested, I am writing to advise you that
the Proposal was passed, unamended, by the Council on 16 April
2007. I enclose a copy of that text for information (not printed).
30 April 2007
154 Correspondence with Ministers, 40th Report of Session
2006-07, HL Paper 187, pp 550-551. Back