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Shop Premises (Amusements)

Volume 124: debated on Wednesday 9 December 1987

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To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will introduce legislation to regulate the growth of fruit machines, slot machines and video machines in shop premises and the number of amusement arcades in Scotland; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland
(Lord James Douglas-Hamilton)

Local authorities have power to control the number of fruit machines and slot machines in shops and the number of amusement arcades in their areas. Reports on these facilities, commissioned by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, are expected shortly. We will then consider whether the law requires to be amended.

I welcome part of the Ministers reply, but it does not go far enough. He greatly underestimates the problem and the strength of feeling in communities in which amusement arcades are located. Furthermore, it seems that every appeal to the Secretary of State by an applicant is upheld, despite local objections and opposition. Why will he not give local authorities every necessary power to control and monitor the situation and take the necessary action when and where it is needed?

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point, and I should mention that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announced in May that he had set up a research project to examine the use that young people make of machines in amusement arcades. In addition, he asked the Gaming Board for Great Britain to prepare a report on amusement arcades and a further announcement can be expected when the work has been completed— it is hoped to be before Christmas. I would mention one brief point concerning children. The Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 gives local authorities wide discretion to attach conditions to licences, and there is no reason why they should not impose an age restriction.

Has all this emphasis on fruit and gaming machines anything to do with the so-called enterprise culture that that bumptious balloon in 11 Downing street is trying to foist on the people of Scotland?

The hon. Gentleman has raised a valid and serious point. It will be considered seriously, as he wishes.

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is considerable anxiety about this issue, whether it relates to Glasgow, Shettleston or to the far west of the United Kingdom in my constituency of St. Ives? While I greatly welcome my hon. Friend's reference to the Home Secretary's comment, will he and all other Ministers take account of the widespread feeling on this issue?

Most certainly. One important point is that a fruit machine involves a game of chance, whereas a video games machine can involve a test of skill. Many matters require close examination, and that is being given.