Tuesday, August 30, 2016

When George Foulkes tried to zap Space Invader machines

On 20 May 1981 George Foulkes, then a Labour MP and now a member of the House of Lords, introduced a bill to give local authorities powers to control Space Invaders machines:
That is what is happening to our young people. They play truant, miss meals, and give up other normal activity to play "space invaders". They become crazed, with eyes glazed, oblivious to everything around them, as they play the machines. 
It is difficult to appreciate unless one has seen it for oneself. I suggest that right hon. and hon. Members who have not seen it should go incognito to an arcade or café in their own areas and see the effect that it is having on young people.
He went on:
In Dudley, in Worcestershire, a 13-year-old schoolboy is reported as having stolen £106, which his grandmother had collected for her funeral, in order to play the machines. Two schoolboys in Barnsley blackmailed a classmate, who had bought stolen property, to get money to play the "space invaders". 
A Sheffield mother is quoted as saying that a Jekyll and Hyde change came over her 14-year-old son when he became hooked on "space invaders". In London, a 13-year-old vanished from his home for 10 days, visiting arcades to play the machines. 
Also in London, a 17-year-old boy was so desperate for money to feed the machines that he turned to blackmail and theft, demanding £900 from a clergyman with whom he had previously had sexual relations. 
Those examples show the force for evil which can arise among young people from addiction to "space invader" machines.
Personally, I would have been more worried about the clergyman than the Space Invaders here, but this was the 1980s.

Foulkes was denied leave to introduce his bill by 114 votes to 94. But among those voting for it were Liberal MPs David Alton and Richard Wainwright and party's leader David Steel.

Credit to Michael Brown (now a journalist) who spoke against and to the Tory MP who asked Mr Speaker how it would be possible to deal in future with the sort of trivia that has just wasted 22 minutes of the time of the House.

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