What are the fireworks laws in the UK like?

Here in America, a good many of us will celebrate our country’s independence by either blowing up a sizable chunk of it*(along with parts of our bodies) or watching one of many professional fireworks shows. For those who choose to do the former, exactly what fireworks an individual who’s not a professional pyrotechnic can lawfully shoot off varies wildly according to the state, county, or city you’re in. In some places (like Indian reservations and–I believe–much of Texas), just about everything (bottle rockets, sky rockets, shells, firecrackers, helicopters, Roman candles, fountains, sparklers, snakes, etc) is legal for about a week around Independence Day (or, in some places, New Year’s Eve). In others, you’re just limited to “safe and sane” (i.e., fountains, sparklers, and snakes) fireworks. And, in places like where I live, even lighting up a sparkler can get you fined several hundred dollars–or worse.

Anyway, since small explosives play such a big role in our celebration of the Fourth of July and the UK’s celebration of Guy Fawkes Day on November 5th, I was wondering what the fireworks laws are like in the UK. What’s legal and what isn’t? Isn’t only limited to certain times of year like Guy Fawkes and New Year’s Eve? Do the laws vary according various counties and jurisdictions? If they’re illegal, do the authorities really crack down on their use?
*To quote the Apu-like convenience store clerk - Simpsons

We’re limited to ‘safe and sane’, to a certain extent. Roughly, anything that you can safely let off in your garden can be bought. The rest can only be supplied to professionals. Year-round sellers have to be licenced, but anybody can sell them in the run-up to Nov 5th, New Years Eve, Diwali, and the Chinese New Year. However, there’s a huge black market for ‘big’ fireworks.

http://www.dti.gov.uk/ccp/topics1/facts/fireworks.htm gives information about other details of the laws. (All this is only necessarily applicable to England & Wales - no idea about elsewhere.)

It’s even stricter here in NSW. Individuals haven’t been able to buy them or let them off for at least twenty years. To purchase fireworks or let them off you need a permit from the appropriate government authority. You can’t get a permit unless the fireworks are for something obvious like a community display or a theatrical performance, and there are onerous conditions requiring liaison with the police and fire brigade; safety requirements; commitments to cleaning up the area afterwards etc.

If you’re caught letting them off without a permit, it’s an on-the-spot fine of $1100.

The rules are a little less strict across the border in the ACT, where fireworks can be purchased by individuals once a year, during the Queen’s Birthday weekend. Fireworks can supposedly be bought only by ACT residents, but many NSW residents hop across the border, buy them and then come back home to let them off.

GorillaMan, thanks for the cite.

So, if was in England shortly before Guy Fawkes and wanted to buy something to blow up really good, legally what exactly could I get and where could I get it? For example, are firecrackers legal during this time? From what I’ve read about Guy Fawkes Day, don’t people often make Guy Fawkes effigies filled with firecrackers and light them or are just professionals allowed to do that? Also, do they set up temporary stands to sell fireworks or can you buy them in a regular store?

Firecrackers aren’t legal, due to them being widely misused. Such as being stuck in a guy (the name for the effigy) and put on a bonfire :wink: Selling any fireworks on an open stall probably wouldn’t be allowed, under various more general health & safety legislation regarding safe storage etc.

For Scotland:


I can’t improve on the information from the link above but I think the new regulations are a very good idea. It was becoming increasingly common to celebrate personal birthdays/anniversaries etc all the year round. Not only that but very often late evening and past midnight. Fireworks now seem to be louder than ever and it causes much distress to some pets and people. Not everyone obeys the new regulations though, and only last Saturday there were fireworks exploding at midnight where I live.
There used to be quite a lot of injuries caused by fireworks on Guy Fawks night too.

Regarding bonfires these are usually organised by licenced local groups these days. In my youth though, where I lived (in a street with terraced houses both sides) we used to build a bonfire on the road, in fact all the streets in the area used to do this and it was a competion to see who could build the biggest. On a road only about 25 feet wide it was pretty scary and it was the fire services busiest night.

Last time I was in England was about a year ago, and I heard a lot of fire cracker-type bangs late at night. I asked my mother if a firing range or something had opened nearby and she said no, it’s just kids letting off fireworks. This is the suburbs of a smallish city.

Hong Kong hasn’t been under UK jurisdiction for 8 years now but fireworks remain totally illegal, as they have been since the late 1960s when they were used by terrorists to make bombs. But every Chinese new year, people set off strings of firecrackers outside my block, smuggled in. This is in the middle of the city. In rural areas, it goes on all day.

In the Philippines a couple of years ago, we bought ‘coconuts’ - real coconut shells stuffed with gunpowder, with a paper fuse. You stuff them down a cardboard tube (tied to a post or something) and light it and run. Blam! Up a couple of hundred feet and then a massive explosion. Totally illegal, but that means nothing down there.

So as with all dangerous substances/items, if there’s a market, there’s a supplier. The law is beside the point.

Happy July 4!! May all your bangs be safe and loud.

in recent years a great many fireworks have been imported from China and they seem to be much louder than before. Sale used to be permitted for only a couple of weeks before Nov. 5th, but now it seems to go on all the time.
The National Campaign for Firework Reform has long argued for a complete ban.

I had some friends visit from Northern Ireland around the 4th of July that were beside themselves with joy at the massive fireworks display over the East River in NYC. I got the impression that all sorts of fireworks were illegal there, including professional displays, as a result of “the troubles.”

This was around 1991 or 1992.