Young drinkers to have alcohol seized by police

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The Independent Online
Police will be given new powers to confiscate alcohol from under-age drinkers under a backbench Bill approved by the Commons yesterday with government and opposition support.

The Confiscation of Alcohol (Young Persons) Bill, which was given an unopposed second reading in the Commons and now looks set to become law, gives the police powers to seize and destroy alcohol in possession of a person under 18 in a public place whom they believe has been drinking or is about to drink in public.

Under the Bill's provisions, officers will be able to confiscate alcohol from anyone when they consider it will be passed on to under-age drinkers to consume in public, and also to report under-age drinking to the culprit's parents. It would be an offence to refuse to hand over drink, with a maximum pounds 500 fine.

The Tory backbencher Dr Robert Spink, MP for Castle Point, introducing his Bill, said the measure was part of the Government's drive to "make our streets safer".

The Home Office minister Timothy Kirkhope said the Bill would close a loophole in the law, which was causing problems all over Britain and provided a "quick on-the-spot solution" to a disturbing increase in "loud and loutish" behaviour.

For the Opposition, George Howarth welcomed the measure and praised Labour controlled local authorities in Coventry and Glasgow for pioneering schemes to ban all public drinking on the streets.

During debate on the Bill, Mr Kirkhope condemned soft drinks containing alcohol, so-called alcopops. "I think that anything that encourages young people to drink alcohol is something we should be very careful about indeed," he said.

Last year the Government told manufacturers to stop making the drinks so attractive to teenagers and in his Budget, Chancellor Kenneth Clarke, responded to growing concern by increasing tax on them by 40 per cent from the start of this year.

Dr Spink said there had been cases of children as young as nine "tanking up" on alcohol and at present nothing could be done to stop it. "This is a complete nonsense. This Bill will give police the power to stop the drinking and confiscate the alcohol before it becomes the cause of trouble for the public and the youngsters themselves."

Mr Kirkhope said: "It will make a real difference to the quality of life for many people across the country."