HL Deb 05 April 1984 vol 450 cc871-6

8.5 p.m.

Clause 2 [Licences]:

Lord Campbell of Alloway moved Amendment No. 1: Page 3, line 26, leave out ("or").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment may I, with respect, have the leave of your Lordships' House to speak to the other amendments standing in my name, as all are concerned with Clause 2—the power of the local authority to grant a licence.

Amendment No. 2: Page 3, line 29. at end insert ("; or ( ) grant or renewal of the licence would be inappropriate, having regard to the layout, character or condition of the premises in respect of which the application is made.").

Amendment No. 3: Page 3, line 29, at end insert—

("( ) Where a person is convicted of an offence under this Act the licensing authority may make an order revoking the licence.").

Amendment No. 4: Page 3, line 33, at end insert ("and such requirements shall obtain as regards revocation of licence.").

Your Lordships will remember that in their original form, this amendment and the next amendment were tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, on Report. They were part of our composite endeavour to devise a formula of minimum intervention, requisite to deal with a social problem concerned not only with the addiction and its consequences but with the planning loopholes. The last amendment is only consequential upon this amendment and the following amendment.

It may be for the convenience of your Lordships' House if I say that this amendment and the next amendment have been redistilled from their original form on Report, only in order to accommodate the drafting structure and to achieve a greater potency of the essence. I am grateful to the noble Baroness not only for her sense of constructive dedication to this particular aspect of community and social welfare, but also for her support of the principle at all stages, and her important contribution. This is but one aspect. It was spoken to on Report. It is self-explanatory. I beg to move.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, has said, these amendments were tabled in a slightly different form at the Report stage under my name. They were discussed at that time and I give the amended form, which the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, has brought forward now, my complete support.

Lord Campbell of Alloway moved Amendment No. 2:

[Printed above.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment was spoken to on Report; it is self-explanatory. I beg to move.

Lord Campbell of Alloway moved Amendment No. 3: [Printed above.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, as this is the last amendment, I am informed by the usual channels that I may properly thank, as I would wish to do, and most sincerely, all noble Lords who have spoken during the passage of this Bill. I have already paid tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, but as yet the debt to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich and the noble Lord, Lord Spens, has not been acknowledged. It is fair to say and it is proper, I hope, to say, that without the quality of such support this Bill would have been hard put to survive its Second Reading. The invaluable support of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, and the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, on the drafting, is also particularly acknowledged.

My Lords, it is not decent to propose unless one can defend the disposal in fair discussion—and your Lordships have my assurance that every recommendation from every trade association (and there were many) that wished to make recommendations, has been received. I am grateful for the proper concern of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. in this regard.

Having due regard to the constraints of office, I am also grateful to my noble friend Lord Elton for what he was able to say and to my noble friend Lady Trumpington for her reticence. I should also like to thank the Public Bill Office which gave shape to the original draft, and the Whips who gave us time for a full discussion on Report.

Should any of your Lordships imagine that our labours in this particular vineyard have been in vain, a glance at last week's Monday column of the Yorkshire Post should give a strong measure of reassurance. One of Her Majesty's counsel, Mr. Nicholas Lyell—a learned friend in another place—will take this Bill from the Table. As to this amendment, it is again self-explanatory. I beg to move.

Lord Campbell of Alloway had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 4:

[Printed earlier: col. 372.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the privilege amendment.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Aylestone)

My Lords, I am about to deal with Amendment No. 4 on the Marshalled List, which has not yet been moved.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, that is the amendment to which I have just spoken.

The Deputy Speaker

My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will move it formally.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 4.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I now beg to move the privilege amendment.

On Question, amendment (privilege) made.

8.13 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Campbell of Alloway.)

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, I should like to take this opportunity of thanking the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, for all the work and commitment that he has put into bringing this Bill forward and to steering it through the House. I should also like to tell him of my great admiration for the perseverance that he has shown. Nevertheless, I should like to take this opportunity of making one or two general points about the spirit behind the Bill and the purpose which the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, and I have shared in our attitude towards it.

We on these Benches have always made it clear— and I know that it is not really necessary for me to repeat this—that we have been concerned at the lack of control which local authorities have over the growing number of amusement arcades. We have thought this because certain of these premises, but not all—and I say this because I have received letters from owners of these premises saying that nothing ever occurs in their premises which is untoward—tend to become resorts of the sort of people with whom children should not be in contact; and, secondly, because there is growing evidence that to play fruit machines can be addictive and it is mainly young teenagers who get hooked. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell, has already given an instance.

In support of that I should like to quote a few lines from another article which was published in the Observer colour supplement about three weeks ago. It describes the establishment of the London branch of Young Gamblers Anonymous. A young man of 19, who set up this branch, had become an addicted gambler from starting to play the fruit machines on his way back from school. Then, when he obtained his first job at the age of 16, the addiction really seized hold of him. The article describes the escalation. It says that: He found himself gambling all his wages"— which were earned at the age of 16— on fruit machines, eventually becoming badly overdrawn at the bank. He went on to steal from his parents to feed his habit and even made detailed plans to burgle a squash club, to try to clear his debts". The article goes on to quote his reason for this. It says: 'I wasn't gambling for a big win,' he says, 'I was trying to escape from reality. I was living in a dream, waiting for my next visit to the arcade. At the same time I was destroying myself. I had no friends or interests and I felt terrible about the way I was treating my parents'". Therefore, this article—which ends by saying that there are branches of Young Gamblers Anonymous all over the country and that more are being planned—is proof that there is a tragic incidence of addiction to gambling among young people in this country. Everything points to the fact that in many cases the addiction has been born and nurtured in amusement arcades.

Moreover, this is a fact which is recognised by other Western European countries. Perhaps I may give an example of just two countries. The present law in France, passed in July of last year, forbids cash amusement machines in public places, even including clubs. It forbids children under the age of 14 to enter cafes unaccompanied, cafes being the place where space-invader-type machines tend to be located.

In Western Germany the law in this regard is less draconian, but nevertheless young people under the age of 18 are not allowed access to gambling halls; they are permitted only to gamble in open-air fairs on machines involving low sums of money, rather on the same lines as the Bill presented to us by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell. Surely this provides unequivocal proof that other countries recognise the risk to their children and are trying to do something to prevent it.

Finally, I support the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell. I must confess that when he amended it at the Report stage, by which amendment children were enabled to enter arcades unaccompanied to play the low-coin machines, merely disallowing them the use of the higher-coin machines, I feared that this was too great a dilution of the Bill and that it would, indeed, be like saying that children could go into a pub, trusting them only to drink lemonade and then to go home.

Therefore, the protection against children gambling would not be in line with that against them drinking, and so in my view there was a very grave inconsistency. However, I am in favour of the provision in the Bill for the licensing authorities to revoke the licence of those establishments which disregard the safeguards for children and also those other requirements set down. I am in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, that this is, indeed, the strongest of disincentives for the owners of the establishments to disregard the provisions of the Bill.

Therefore, perhaps the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, in its diluted state, has the advantage of tempting the Government to smile upon it a little more. Perhaps the Government and the Home Office might regard it as a start and might think that these very modest measures presented by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, and suggested in this Bill might be adopted as a trial to see how things work. I very much hope that this will be the line which the Government will take. I restate our great support for the spirit and purpose behind the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway for the very kind remarks which he made about my noble friend and myself. Both he and the noble Baroness are well aware of the Government's attitude towards his Bill, but I should like to congratulate him on the perseverance he has shown in pursuing a matter which I know is near and dear to his heart.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, may I briefly say again how grateful I am to the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, for her moving and highly informative speech. The dilution was spoken to on Report. Although I accept the total responsibility in this matter, I was guided by, and expressed my gratitude to, my noble friend Lord Elton who wrote to me about it. Without taking up your Lordships' time, what he wrote seemed sound, reasonable and sensible, and I stand by the adoption. If it is too weak it is always open to the Government, as the noble Baroness has suggested, to strengthen it, and that is quite easily done.

I have refrained, because it is an emotive subject, from dealing with the wide coverage that this Bill has had in the national and provincial press, but there have been some moving articles in the Evening Standard, one of the Brighton local papers, one of the Birmingham local papers, and another paper in Bradford this last week. It is a national problem which is accepted as such by the press, and in this their investigative journalism has rendered us all signal service.

On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.