The Home Office has not received any recent representations on the use of under 18s in respect of test purchases. However, officials have regular discussions with both ACPO and, during campaigns, with individual police forces on a number of issues encompassing their enforcement work, including the use of test purchases.
[holding answer 19 February 2009]: The Government encourage local areas to undertake test purchasing to ensure that alcohol is not sold to children, but the use of those aged under 18 in test purchase operations is a local operational matter, and as such is a matter for the chief constable. However, both ACPO and LACORS have produced guidance on this matter.
I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 3 February 2009, Official Report, columns 1025-34W. Information held on court proceedings cannot be broken down by constituency or local authority area. The table as referred to holds the data requested broken down by police force area and for England and Wales.
I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 3 February 2009, Official Report, columns 1025-1034W. Information held on court proceedings cannot be broken down by council area. The table as referred to holds the data requested broken down by police force area which includes Gloucestershire police force. Data for the south-west region include Devon and Cornwall constabulary, Dorset police, Avon and Somerset constabulary, Wiltshire constabulary, and Gloucestershire constabulary.
I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 3 February 2009, Official Report, columns 1025-34W. Information held on court proceedings cannot be broken down by individual areas so data on Hemel Hempstead is not available. The table as referred to holds the data requested broken down by police force area which includes Hertfordshire police force.
The Government take the issue of selling alcohol to under-age people very seriously indeed. The Home Secretary announced in her speech on 6 February 2008, 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 Office co-ordinated enforcement campaigns have provided support to police and trading standard officers in the use of the extensive powers available under the Licensing Act 2003 in relation to children. Indeed successive Alcohol Misuse and Enforcement Campaigns (AMECs) from 2004 and Tackling Underage Sales of Alcohol Campaigns (TUSAC) since 2006 have reduced the test purchase failure rate from approximately 50 per cent. to approximately 15 per cent. Additionally, we have recently launched a new £4.5 million enforcement campaign in 190 areas, with a particular focus on the 50 areas of most concern to us from January to March 2009. The Home Office also supports the Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS), as well as initiatives which seek to reduce the number of under-age sales such as “Challenge 21”.
The Government have also introduced legislation to create an enabling power to introduce a new mandatory code of practice for alcohol retailers and to take forward the legislative announcements as set out in the written ministerial statement following the Licensing Act review and the Youth Alcohol Action Plan, namely: the creation of a new offence of persistent possession of alcohol in a public place by a person aged under 18, and amending the ‘persistent selling’ offence from three sales to an under 18 in three months, to two sales in three months.
Information collected centrally and held on the Ministry of Justice Court Proceedings Database does not identify the quantity or value of alcohol confiscated under the terms of the Confiscation of Alcohol (Young Persons) Act 1997.
However an alcohol confiscation campaign took place in February 2008 following a pilot in October 2007. 165 out of the 227 basic command units (BCUs) took part in the campaign and the result was that over 21,000 litres of alcohol (70 per cent. beer) was confiscated in over 5,000 separate seizures from individuals and groups of more than 23,000 young people. Activity in both campaigns focussed on school holidays and weekends when young people were most likely to be engaged in this activity.