Blair plans to issue identity cards to teenagers

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair is expected to outline plans today for a nationwide proof-of-age card for teenagers to prevent under-age drinking and smoking.

Tony Blair is expected to outline plans today for a nationwide proof-of-age card for teenagers to prevent under-age drinking and smoking.

The scheme, backed by Jack Straw, Home Secretary, would create a swipecard that would include date of birth, a photograph and other information. Ministers do not want the scheme to be portrayed as a first step to national identity cards for adults but say it could have a big impact on the number of children who buy tobacco or alcohol illegally.

The Prime Minister is determined to act, despite the publicity surrounding his son Euan, 16, who was arrested this year after he was found "drunk and incapable" in Leicester Square, in London.

The Independent disclosed this month that the Government was looking at the idea of a proof-of-age card, with a pilot scheme likely to be introduced in Glasgow, where the problem of illegal sales is prevalent. Last night government sources said the scheme was likely to be announced in Mr Blair's setpiece speech today.

Under Home Office plans, publicans and shopkeepers could refuse to sell alcohol or cigarettes to any teenager who failed to produce the card when asked their age. Downing Street has been impressed by the Department for Education's Connexions card, which offers shop discounts for teenagers who stay on at school.

A proof-of-age card scheme has been devised by the Portman Group, which represents the big brewers, but it has no legal weight. Licensees have campaigned for years for a government-backed card instead. Recent figures show sales of alcohol, cigarettes and solvents to those under age have increased substantially.

A survey of retailers found 92 per cent want a government-run proof-of-age card to stamp out under-age sales. Most shopkeepers are forced to refuse to serve youngsters almost daily.

Under the proposals all 16-year-olds could be issued with the cards. The law, based on proposals in the Time for Reform White Paper, would apply to pubs, off-licences, supermarkets and newsagents.

The Portman Group published a Mori opinion poll this year that suggested 91 per cent of people believed that wider use of identity cards could help to cut under-age drinking; 83 per cent wanted cards made compulsory.

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