High Peak MP’s campaign to ban sky lanterns wins support in parliament

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High Peak MP Ruth George’s bid to ban sky lanterns has passed its first parliamentary hurdle, winning cross-party support from MPs for her bill.

The Labour MP introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill to prohibit the use of sky lanterns in England on Wednesday, March 27, and it will now proceed to a second reading in early April.

Ruth George, MP for the High Peak

Ruth George, MP for the High Peak

She decided to seek the ban following outcry last summer when an American company advertised a lantern festival in the Buxton area, just as wildfires raged across the Peaks.

Mrs George said: “I was appalled there was no law to stop such a dangerous event, despite opposition from Derbyshire fire service and local authorities. It was down to local campaigners and myself putting pressure on the venue that finally led them to cancel it.”

She added: “There is a code of conduct, but it isn’t working. Communities, farmers, and our fire service need to know they are safe.

“Sky lanterns are airborne flames. You cannot predict where they land. They have caused several major fires in recent years, endanger farm animals and wildlife, and cause litter in beautiful places like the Peak District.”

Ten Minute Rule Bills do not automatically become law, but they can easily be transposed into full legislation.

The MP is also seeking a meeting with the Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Gove, to ask for support in passing the law at the earliest opportunity.

She said: “In the meantime, I hope the strength of feeling in Parliament, shown by the Bill, will deter anyone from arranging events this summer.”

The Lights Fest company, which organised events across the UK in 2018, including at Buxton, is not currently advertising any for 2019.

The MP’s campaign is backed by the National Farmers’ Union, RSPCA, Peak District National Park and fire authorities.

Derbyshire’s Chief Fire Officer Terry McDermott said: “The heatwave of 2018 brought with it major moorland fires across the UK. These fires resulted in devastation to the natural landscape.

“Resources from across the UK fire and rescue service were deployed for several weeks tackling these wild fires at great cost to the UK taxpayer.”

He added: “Our main aim is to protect our communities by preventing and responding to fires and other emergencies.

“In 2013 a sky lantern is thought to have caused a huge fire at a recycling plant in Smethwick, involving more than 200 firefighters, 100,000 tonnes of plastic and damage totalling £6million.”

Sarah Fowler, chief executive of the Peak District National Park Authority, said: “Along with National Parks England, we wish to see the release of sky lanterns classified as littering and therefore banned. We strongly discourage their use.

“There is increasing evidence of their potential impacts on the countryside in terms of the health and welfare risks for livestock, unintended impacts on wildlife, and the risk of fires.”

She added: “Due to the unpredictable nature of their flight paths, lanterns launched some distance away can have significant consequences in the Peak District.”

Ruth’s full Commons speech introducing the Bill can be found at https://bit.ly/2Ucx6ln.