HC Deb 04 March 1988 vol 128 c720W
Mr. David Nicholson

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) whether he now proposes to seek to amend the legislation relating to local authorities powers to control slot machine gambling by children;

(2) what representation he has received regarding the law on local authorities' powers to control slot machine gambling by children;

(3) what surveys on slot machine gambling by children he has received since 1 July 1987, other than the recently published survey by the Spectrum Children's Trust of Taunton.

Mr. John Patten

We have received the results of a number of surveys or inquiries of that nature in this field. Some are based on the direct questioning of young people about their use of amusement machines. Others have taken the views and experience of persons and interests concerned, such as local authorities, licensing justices, the police and probation services, teachers and education authorities, those who provide the machines and other traders, individuals and organisations concerned with people with problems of gambling addiction, and research bodies. The sources of the surveys includeThe Association of Chief Officers of Probation; the Amusement Arcade Action Group: the Gordon House Association; the Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland; Parents of Young Gamblers; HJM Caterers Ltd.; Thomas Organisation Ltd; Birmid Leisure Ltd.; Wilson Leisure Ltd.; Starclust Leisure Ltd.; Countgrade Ltd.; Kendor Entertainments Ltd.; Showboat Holdings Ltd.; JCM Holdings (Yorkshire) Ltd.; Shipley and Sons; the Magistrates' Association; the Centre for Leisure Research; the National Council on Gambling; Mr. Neil Farmer; the Devon Branch of the Magistrates' Association; the National Housing and Town Planning Council; and the British Amusement Catering Trades Association.

In addition, we have received the results of research which the Home Office research unit commissioned of Carrick James Market Research Ltd. and the Susie Fisher Group, and the report of a programme of visits to amusement arcades by the inspectors of the Gaming Board. Other material sent in response to our review of the law on amusement arcades may take account of surveys which are not explicitly referred to.

In the course of the review we have received a range of representations about the powers of local authorities to grant or refuse permits for premises having amusement-with-prizes machines, or otherwise to control such premises. Some of these representations are to the effect that the current law is adequate, and that additional controls would limit unnecessarily the provision and use of the machines and premises where they are found. The focus of representations that the law should be amended concern the suggestion that young people may become addicted to playing the machines, and that this may lead to anti-social or criminal behaviour. The suggestion most frequently made in these representations is that access to places providing the machines or use of the machines themselves should be restricted to people aged over 16 or 18 years. It has been variously suggested that such a restriction should be imposed nationally, or be within the power of local authorities, or that of the licensing Justices.

We hope to be able to reach conclusions on our review of these issues in due course.