(2) whether, when granting a licence to a certain firm of which he has been informed for the manufacture of slot machines, he has been informed of the concession made to them by the manufacturers of contraceptives for sale in the machines.
asked the Minister of Supply what consideration was given to the moral aspect of the matter before a licence for the manufacture of slot machines for the sale of contraceptives was granted; what protests have subsequently been received by his Department from religious and other bodies; and whether he will make a full statement on the matter.
No licence has been granted by my Ministry specifically for the manufacture of slot machines for the sale of contraceptives. The number of such machines now in use in Great Britain is not known. My Ministry is concerned only with the issue of the licences required under the Machinery, Plant and Appliances Orders for the manufacture and supply of slot machines. These machines are used for selling a wide variety of goods such as aspirin, cigarettes, sweets, hair cream, sanitary towels, drinks and food. The range of goods sold is governed by the value of the coin which operates the machine, and by the size of the delivery tray. Within these physical limitations any slot machine may be used for the sale of any article which can legally be offered for sale.
In view of this freedom of choice, a licence issued to a manufacturer is a general one and my Department has no knowledge of the use to which these machines will be put. The only way in which I could prevent machines being used for the sale of contraceptives in this country would be by prohibiting the manufacture of all slot machines, which would, of course, deny to the public the use of convenient purchasing facilities for numerous other goods. The licence stipulates the total value of slot machines to be exported and no export licence is needed. I have no power to control the use made of machines exported from this country.
As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary informed the House on 20th October, he has given instructions for a model by-law to be drafted prohibiting the sale of contraceptives by means of these machines and this has now been circulated to the competent local authorities.
Can my right hon. Friend say whether this is really a new problem at all? Is it not a fact that for many years past contraceptives have been obtainable through slot machines in London?
When a licence was requested to manufacture more slot machines, was no inquiry made by the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry as to whether it was necessary to make more slot machines and for what purpose they were to be used? In view of the shortages, was it not the duty of the Minister to make these inquiries?
Does the Minister mean to say that where there is anything that is offensive to the public taste and to which parents have an objection, there cannot be restrictions in its being placed in a slot machine? It seems most ridiculous. Will he take steps to see that this does not continue?