Contraceptives (Slot Machine Sales)

Oral Answers to Questions — Ministry of Supply – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th October 1949.

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Photo of Mr David Gammans Mr David Gammans , Hornsey 12:00 am, 24th October 1949

asked the Minister of Supply if he is prepared to reconsider the policy of his Department in granting licences for the manufacture of slot machines for the sale of contraceptives thereby encouraging their use in this country.

Photo of Sir Henry Morris-Jones Sir Henry Morris-Jones , Denbigh

asked the Minister of Supply (1) the number of slot machines for the sale of contraceptives now in use in Great Britain, and for the manufacture of which a licence was granted by his Department;

(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.

Photo of Mr Ronald Chamberlain Mr Ronald Chamberlain , Lambeth Norwood

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.

Photo of Sir Frank Medlicott Sir Frank Medlicott , Norfolk Eastern

asked the Minister of Supply how far it is the policy of his Department to give facilities for the manufacture of slot machines for the sale of contraceptives.

Photo of Mr Daniel Lipson Mr Daniel Lipson , Cheltenham

asked the Minister of Supply why he granted a licence for the manufacture of automatic slot machines for the sale of contraceptives; and whether he will cancel the licence forthwith.

Photo of Mr Arthur Symonds Mr Arthur Symonds , Cambridge

asked the Minister or Supply if, when he issued a licence permitting the manufacture and erection of certain slot machines, he was aware that they were intended for the indiscriminate sale of contraceptives.

Photo of Mr Luke Teeling Mr Luke Teeling , Brighton

asked the Minister of Supply how many slot machines of the pattern used for selling contraceptives in this country have been licensed for export; and what steps he proposes to take to prevent these machines being used in the export drive.

Photo of Mr George Strauss Mr George Strauss , Lambeth North

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.

Photo of Mr David Gammans Mr David Gammans , Hornsey

Is it not a fact that the right hon. Gentleman's Parliamentary Secretary stated that they knew perfectly well what these machines were to be used for, but that in the interests of the export trade they would be allowed to try them out at home?

Photo of Mr George Strauss Mr George Strauss , Lambeth North

No, Sir. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary wrote a letter which has been widely misrepresented, and in that letter he was dealing with slot machines in general and not any particular type of slot machine.

Photo of Mr Arthur Symonds Mr Arthur Symonds , Cambridge

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?

Photo of Mr Daniel Lipson Mr Daniel Lipson , Cheltenham

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?

Photo of Mr George Strauss Mr George Strauss , Lambeth North

We gave a licence because there were possibilities of substantial exports of slot machines. We gave a licence to these companies for that reason.

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

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?

Photo of Mr Ronald Chamberlain Mr Ronald Chamberlain , Lambeth Norwood

As mine was one of the Questions which the Minister answered, may I not ask a supplementary question?

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

I thought we had sufficiently exhausted the subject.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

Order. I said I thought we had sufficiently exhausted the subject. It is my decision; the hon. Member must obey it.

Photo of Mr Ronald Chamberlain Mr Ronald Chamberlain , Lambeth Norwood

On a point of Order. May I respectfully point out to you—

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

Order. I said we had exhausted it sufficiently and I did not want any more questions, and that is the end of that.