HC Deb 02 March 1998 vol 307 cc703-4
18. Mr. Bradshaw

What steps he is taking to reduce the number of young people who engage in under-age consumption of alcohol. [30356]

Mr. George Howarth

The Government are committed to tackling under-age drinking. Our statement of 17 July last year, a copy of which is in the Library, set out our views on the action needed by all concerned parties to tackle alcohol abuse by young people under the age of 18.

Mr. Bradshaw

Following the Minister's visit to Exeter last week, he will be aware of the great concern locally about the phenomenon known as the booze cruise, which exploits the current loophole in the law and allows alcohol to be sold to under-age children as long as they are on a moving boat. Does not that fly in the face of our desire to curb under-age drinking, and what is he going to do about it?

Mr. Howarth

As recently as last week, my hon. Friend and I visited his constituency to talk to people who had been involved in such cruises. I am looking very carefully at what all the people who were worried about that issue said, and considering what action will be appropriate. One aspect that we can look at immediately is whether the operator concerned is in breach of his sailing licence.

Mrs. Lait

Further to that, does the Minister share my concern that under-age drinkers have access to cheap alcohol because of the great prevalence of bootlegged and smuggled alcohol? Does he agree that the multi-disciplinary approach to stemming that tide of alcohol is the best one possible, and will he guarantee that police forces involved in trying to stem that tide will receive the resources that they need?

Mr. Howarth

The hon. Lady is clearly right. As any of us know from our own constituencies, there is a problem in that people go abroad, bring back various forms of alcohol and sell it to young people. I agree that a multi-disciplinary or multi-agency approach is a very good way of tackling that problem, and we are committed to such an approach. It shows the value of working in partnership to try to eradicate such problems.