HC Deb 28 July 1988 vol 138 cc422-3W
Mr. Gorst

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what conclusion he has reached on research into the use by young people of amusement-with-prizes machines; what action he now proposes; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. John Patten

We have now considered the report of the Home Office research and planning unit (RPU) on the research which my right hon. Friend announced in answer to a question from Mr. Geoff Lawler, the then Member for Bradford, North, on 6 May last year, at column 436. We have also considered the report which the chairman of the Gaming Board arranged at the request of my right hon. Friend. That report has been prepared by inspectors of the board on their findings following a number of visits to amusement arcades. In addition, the Department has been greatly assisted by reports and other comments which the interested organisations have submitted.

Copies of the reports of the RPU and the Gaming Board inspectorate have today been placed in the Library. The RPU report concludes that, although many young people spend money on amusement machines, there is almost no evidence of dependency, and that there is no reliable evidence at all of a causal link between playing machines and delinquency. The overall findings of the Gaming Board inspectorate, though inevitably more tentative because of the nature of their survey, are consistent with the RPU report.

The Government recognise the concern felt about cases where dependency, though most exceptional, does occur. We also recognise the concern felt about the effect on amenities of the presence of amusement machines, mainly in arcades but also in other premises. We have concluded in the light of the research that further legislative controls are not justified. There is, however, a need to consider how best to warn young people of the potential hazards of excessive use of amusement machines and to provide help to those at risk. We should also seek ways in which parents of any children running into serious trouble might be helped.

The Government therefore propose to take the following steps: To enter into consultation at once with all the interested organisations and other bodies on how we can best deal with the few cases of genuine dependency. To pursue with the British Amusement Catering Trades Association and others the possibility of guidance which might be prominently displayed near the entrance to all arcades and possibly other premises with machines. To consult the local authority associations about the contribution which the education and youth services may make. With a view to making fuller use of the existing powers to protect amenity interests we shall seek comments from the local authority and trade associations on draft model bye-laws controlling, among other things, the opening hours of amusement arcades; and we will remind local authorities of the considerable powers available to ban amusement-with-prizes machines in premises other than amusement arcades, such as fish-and-chips shops.