Alcohol (Sales to Young People)

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 6th March 2003.

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Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour 2:30 pm, 6th March 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive what steps it is taking to deal with the selling of alcohol to under-age young people. (S1O-6572)

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

It is for the police and the prosecuting authorities to respond to reports of licensees selling alcohol to young people under 18. The Executive's plan for action on alcohol problems acknowledges that several approaches are required, including proof-of-age schemes and training for bar and off-licence staff.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

Will the minister reflect on the serious impact that the selling of alcohol to young people has on the peace of mind and security of many of my constituents who have to live with the subsequent disorder, vandalism and aggression? Does he agree that it is urgent that we adopt a more rigorous approach to dealing with those who knowingly sell drink to under-age young people and to adults who pass alcohol on? In particular, will he examine how the use of young people in the test purchasing of cigarettes and solvents might be extended to alcohol so that shopkeepers who are willing to bolster their profits in that way can be exposed and dealt with effectively?

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

I share Johann Lamont's concerns. A test purchasing scheme involving tobacco sales is under way and will be examined to see how successful and effective it is.

Johann Lamont also referred to the scheme that was started in Fife, which arose from a debate sponsored by Marilyn Livingstone to which Fife Council responded. Fife Council is considering some of the issues surrounding shopkeepers who sell to under-age children. That will be different from the tobacco scheme, the evidence from which could be used for prosecution purposes. The local authority is running a solvent-abuse scheme to identify the extent of the problem.

There would be nothing to prevent authorities such as Glasgow City Council from reacting as Fife Council has done and testing the extent of illegal sales. From any evidence gathered, we could reflect on what has to be done.

The Crown Office and the Executive have made it clear that we will act on the information gathered from the tobacco scheme. Anything that Fife Council, or any other authority that has responded to Johann Lamont's point, can do will be of benefit and use to us.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

Does the minister agree that, as we consider a review of licensing terms and conditions, we could consider giving courts the opportunity to deal with such breaches by means of the temporary suspension of a licence? In view of the loss of revenue to the licensee, that is more likely to be successful than a straightforward court fine.

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

There are complex issues surrounding what Bill Aitken has suggested. If the tobacco purchasing and solvent abuse scheme identifies issues of concern, we will reflect on what has to be done.

The clear message has to go out from the Parliament that, as Johann Lamont says, irresponsible shopkeepers who are prepared to damage the health of young people will face harsh penalties and we will not tolerate them.