In 1605, 13 young men planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Among them was Guy Fawkes, Britain's most notorious traitor.

The plot was dramatically thwarted, Parliament was saved and Fawkes paid for his treachery with his life.

His death was the catalyst for Bonfire Night, which started on the cold November night 402 years ago when the plot was discovered.

The tradition of setting a Guy Fawkes effigy on top of a bonfire has lasted four centuries and is a tangible modern link to an important event in British history.

This is in contrast to American-style Halloween festivities which, over the last few years, seem to be winning the battle to usurp our own home-grown festival.

Apparently, some children find it more entertaining to beg money from householders before vandalising those homes where owners decline to hand over a treat, than to enjoy a traditional English bonfire.

It's a sad fact that Britain, along with the rest of the world, is becoming more Americanised as each year passes and that's one good reason why we should continue with the age-old and purely English tradition of Bonfire Night, with all its trimmings.

Of course, like many things in modern British life, a small minority of people have abused our tradtional tolerance with anti-social use of fireworks.

This prompted a government clampdown on the availability and strength of fireworks. But this should not mean fireworks should be banned because of their misuse by a few.

Explosive fireworks can be dangerous and, unfortunately, each year about 1,000 people are injured in Britain despite more than 100 million touch-papers being lit last year.

During 2005 and 2006, the Greater Manchester Fire Service dealt with 45 people injured in bonfire-related incidents and 29 injuries from fireworks.

This year, the fire service's safety campaign targets young teenagers - the most "at risk" group from firework injuries.

The ever-powerful health and safety lobby have become increasingly involved and this has resulted in sparklers being banned by some councils during public displays and other punitive measures being introduced.

Even in York, the home of Guy Fawkes, the cost of providing adequate safety measures has meant the council cancelled official bonfires and firework displays.

The era of yob rule has seen older people and pets frightened by anti-social use of fireworks and attacks on firefighters have also increased as social mores break down.

The fire service does not want to see Bonfire Night and fireworks banned, but it is keeping tabs on the new legislation to see how it effects behaviour. A brigade spokesman said: "It is around this time of year when attacks on firefighters peak as we are called out to many incidents where fires on open land have got out of control."

New restricted selling periods were introduced on January 1, 2005, and possession of fireworks by under-18s was made illegal.

Proper accountability for firework importers was also introduced.

The gradual upsurge in hooliganism with fireworks has led the industry to change focus and adopt a new approach.

Responding to public concern, the fireworks industry banned air bombs and smaller nuisance rockets.

The Government and industry clampdown on firework sales has significantly lessened, although not eradicated, the anti-social use of fireworks over the past couple of years.

In response to public concern about the use of fireworks, the Government introduced The Fireworks Act 2003 followed by more legislation in 2005.

A curfew exists on the use of adult fireworks between 11pm and 7am, with the exception of the following nights where the curfew will begin at different times: November 5 - 12 midnight; New Years Eve - 1am; Chinese New Year - 1am; and Diwali night until 1am.

And fireworks should not be louder than 120 decibels.

The plot to blow up Parliament

The Gunpowder Plot came about after Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, when English Catholics, who had been persecuted under her rule, were bitterly disappointed when her successor, James I, who had a Catholic mother, failed to be more tolerant of their religion.

So, 13 young men decided that violent action was the answer.

Their leader Robert Catesby decided to blow up the Houses of Parliament and by doing so they would kill the King, maybe the Prince of Wales, and those MPs who were making life difficult for Catholics.

But some of the plotters started having second thoughts as it became clear that innocent people would be hurt or killed in the attack, including some who had fought for more rights for Catholics.

An intercepted warning letter reached the King, who sent troops to stop the conspirators and on November 5, 1605, Guy Fawkes was caught red-handed in the cellar of Parliament with 36 barrels of gunpowder.

He was interrogated, tortured and executed.

Even today, the reigning monarch only enters the Parliament once a year for the State Opening of Parliament. But before the opening, and according to custom, the Yeomen of the Guard search the cellars of the Palace of Westminster.