Yesterday morning, on the radio, I heard a government spokeswoman – sounded like Jacqui Smith – saying, re teenage drunkenness, “We have to find out why they do it, and what enjoyment they get out of it…” Presumably with a view to putting a stop to them enjoying it. . .
But how on earth this woman – whoever she is, I can find no mention in the Sunday papers – can claim not to know what pleasure kids, or anyone else for that matter, get from alcohol baffles me, and she is surely the wrong person to try and reduce under-age boozing if it’s true. And I know a radio news sound-bite isn’t carved-in-stone policy (yet, hey, sometimes it turns out to be exactly that), but I got the distinct impression – and I’m not trying to be a smart-arse here – that the problem was that kids were enjoying the booze, not that they’re getting shit-faced, injuring themselves and injuring and killing each other and, all to often, anyone who crosses their path. And that is surely so utterly wrong-headed it beggars belief.
There are laws in place to prevent under-age boozing, but because kids of 15 can look over 18 these days, at least in stature, then it’s very difficult to enforce the ban on sales to minors. There is only one answer, and I know that that civil-liberties organisations/numpties are on this subject like flies on a dead horse, but that answer is ID cards. And really, I do not see what the objection is – because it sure as hell isn’t one of civil liberties.
As I’ve said previously ( in fact, I have a feeling I might have written something like this post previously but, hey, it’s Christmas, you don’r expect me to look, surely? ), every adult possesses a variety of ID cards and documents, from drivers’ licenses, a wide assortment of cards (credit, debit, library, travel etc.), to passports. Nobody feels that these are infringement of any kind of liberty at all, so why people are so set against ID cards I really don’t know, Actually, I think it’s just a vocal minority, and a pretty small one at that, making a lot of fuss about very little – I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of people couldn’t care less.
Of course, the government hasn’t helped the cause of ID cards by presenting wholly fallacious “justifications” for them – they will not, for example, have the slightest impact on crime or terrorism, and anyone with half a brain can see that clearly. The honest reason, that everyone should be able to prove who they are, if asked by someone with a right to know, is rarely mentioned. It should be, though, because I think most people could understand that.
In the US, there’s so much information on the driving license that it serves as a national ID card, and without one you’re virtually an un-person, and you’d find it hard to even rent a video. And – this is the important aspect – without a driving license to prove your age, if challenged, you can’t buy booze in the US. Not in bars, not in liquor stores or supermarkets, either.
Here in the UK, driving isn’t near as universal as it is in the US, so a driving license counts for little.. In my view, and pretty much immediately, the government should forget all about buggering around with biometrics, and issue a basic, card containing name, address, age, and a clear colour photo (the crappy photo on the UK drivers’ license is a bad joke – I look like a terrorist on mine – whereas on my disabled persons’ travel pass the photo is quite clearly me).
That could be done inside 6 months, I believe, after which being found without one would be an offence punishable by, let’s say, a £50 fine for the first six months – not too punitive for people who are genuinely forgetful. After 6 months, jack it up to £500 for a first offence – that would make most normal people think twice. A second offence, though, when there’s no longer the excuse of novelty, should, maybe, be enough to be punitive, say £500 or 30 days. Draconian? Not really – after all, does a normal, honest member of society have any reason to want to hide their identity? No, of course not.
The cards – only issued to people over 18 (because for youngsters, they’d change so much, so quickly, it wouldn’t be feasible) – would prevent under-age boozers from buying booze at all. Shop-lifting alcohol, which is also a factor, should attract higher penalties than “normal” shop-lifting, and maybe supermarkets need to increase their security to reduce its occurrence and nail the culprits.
What is NOT acceptable as a solution to the problem of under-age boozing is any measure which impacts upon adults – such as price increases, which have been favoured in the past – you simply cannot continue to punish everyone for the actions of a relative few.