HC Deb 19 March 1942 vol 378 cc1647-8
43. Mr. Crowder

asked the Home Secretary what is the present number of fun fairs and amusement arcades remaining in the London area; how many are in operation; and whether, in view of the fact that most of them offend against the Betting Act, 1853, and the Gaming Act, 1845, he will arrange for more drastic police action in closing down the remainder which offend against the law?

Mr. H. Morrison

The Commissioner of Police informs me that the number active in January, 1939, was 291 in the Metropolitan Police District. I have no recent official figures, but I understand that there are now 69 active and 49 closed in the County of London Action is taken by the police in respect of breaches of the law when the element of betting or gambling is more than trivial.

Mr. Crowder

Why have not the police already seized these machines, which I understand are classed as illegal gaming machines?

Mr. Morrison

It is a question of fact in each case. It should not be assumed that the police have a universal power to seize machines, but I am advised that the police enforce the law within the limits of the law.

Mr. Lindsay

Is not my right hon. Friend to see a deputation from magistrates on this subject?

Mr. Morrison

I did not know that I was.

Mr. Goldie

Is not the Minister aware that there is no power to confiscate such machines under the Betting Act, 1853, as distinct from the Gaming Act of 1845? Will he take power to ensure that such machines are confiscated?

Mr. Morrison

I have not said that. I said that the matter had to be judged legally, in accordance with the facts of each case. I will, of course, consider any representations which are made to me, but I am bound to say that the numbers I have given do not convince me that they represent a dramatic evil which is threatening the nation's ruin. Everybody, including myself, must keep a sense of proportion about this tendency to stop everything with which somebody does not agree.

Sir Percy Harris

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the statement made by the chairman of a juvenile court in the East End of London that an enormous amount of juvenile crime, especially among school children, is caused by frequenting these places?

Mr. Morrison

Mr. Henriques has been good enough to send me his letter, and I will take account of it, but I am not convinced that a general increase in juvenile crime is caused by these machines. There may be some exaggeration. What I am saying is that we should preserve a sense of proportion and some degree of ordinary human tolerance about these amusements.