[holding answer 12 May 2008]: The Government take underage drinking very seriously. The National Alcohol Strategy ‘Safe.Sensible.Social' published in June 2007, focuses action on three groups most at risk which are 18 to 24 year-old binge drinkers, young people under 18 who drink alcohol, and harmful drinkers whose drinking is damaging their health, often without them realising it.
In the Home Secretary's speech on 6 February 2008, she said that a number of new measures and possible steps would be taken to crack down on crime and antisocial behaviour which is fuelled by alcohol. This includes highlighting the message that it is not acceptable for young people to drink in public places. The Home Secretary also said that she is considering a number of options including making the possession of alcohol by a young person an offence, or possibly involving the parents if alcohol is confiscated from a child. We are currently considering the effectiveness of the current powers and what can be done to help the police use them more effectively.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families will shortly be publishing a Youth Alcohol Action Plan which will build on the toughened enforcement of the underage drinking laws. It will set out the responsibilities of parents and the alcohol industry as well as sending a clear message that young people drinking in public is not acceptable.
Additionally, two confiscation campaigns have taken place recently; one in October 2007 and one in February 2008. The results of the October campaign where 23 out of the 227 Basic Command Units (BCUs) took part, showed that nearly 3,700 litres of alcohol were confiscated from young people during the four week period. The February 2008 campaign involved 165 BCUs where 21,000 litres of alcohol was confiscated during a two week period. Activity in both campaigns focussed on school holidays and weekends when young people were most likely to be engaged in this activity.
Other campaigns include the tackling underage sales of alcohol campaign (TUSAC) which focused on shop keepers who sold alcohol to children. The TUSAC took place between May and July 2007 and demonstrated a new approach to test purchase campaigns by focusing on perceived problem premises identified locally. The results of the latest Tackling Underage Sales of Alcohol Campaign (TUSAC) show that it is increasingly difficult for under-18s to purchase alcohol. This is in large part thanks to tougher enforcement by police and trading standards in conjunction with the positive efforts of industry to clamp down on underage sales.
The Government also support schemes that make it easier for retailers to verify, and young people to prove their age. That is why we are working with the British Retail Consortium's Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS) which validates the variety of proof of age card schemes available. This allows card schemes to apply for accreditation under PASS and entitles them to issue cards displaying the PASS holographic logo. This is easily recognisable both to retailers and young people and helps them know that they have a proof of age document which should be accepted. The Government have recently given the Proof of Age Standards Scheme 50,000 in order to assist the PASS Board in raising awareness of the scheme amongst young people and retailers.