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7 Jun 2006 : Column 753W—continued

Under-age Drinking

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he proposes to take to eliminate (a) under-age drinking and (b) the use of false identification documents by under-aged youths to purchase alcohol. [74531]

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Mr. McNulty: The Government are determined to tackle sales of alcohol to under-18s. Enforcement of the law takes place on a daily basis through test-purchase operations carried out by Police and Trading Standards officers. In addition to this regular activity, the fourth national Alcohol Misuse Enforcement Campaign (AMEC 4) is currently under way. Part of this includes the provision of extra funding for up to 5,000 test-purchase operations during the four-week period of the campaign. Those who sell to under-18s risk a £80 fixed penalty notice, or prosecution. Licensees selling to under 18s additionally risk having their licence reviewed and conditions applied, or even having their license revoked.

The Violent Crime Reduction Bill currently before Parliament establishes a new offence of persistently selling alcohol to under-18s. If three sales are made in three consecutive months, the new offence will be committed, and the licensee risks a fine of £10,000 and having their licence suspended for 3 months. The police can offer the licensee the option of avoiding prosecution by closing their premises for 48 hours.

In addition to enforcement activity, Ministers and officials from the Home Office and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport are working very closely with the licensed industry, and have secured commitments from both the off-licensed sector and the on-licensed sector to seek to eliminate sales of alcohol to children. Progress against these commitments will be monitored closely through test-purchase failure rates.

The Government are aware of the problems faced by young people when wishing to prove their age or purchase age-restricted products, also by retailers when requesting proof of identity. Consequently, the Government are working with the British Retail Consortium’s Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS) which validates the variety of proof of age card schemes available. This allows card schemes to apply for accreditation under PASS and entitles them to issue cards displaying the PASS holographic logo. This is easily recognisable both to retailers and young people and helps them know that they have a proof of age document which should be accepted. The logo is trademark registered, making it an offence to forge. In the longer term, the identity card can be used as proof of age as well as proof of identity, however, this is a few years away from introduction.

Volunteers Return Scheme

Damian Green: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate he has made of the number of foreign nationals given financial or practical assistance under the volunteers return scheme who have not yet left the UK. [73522]

Mr. Byrne: Reintegration assistance payable under the voluntary returns programmes is only payable to returnees on return to their country of origin. The International Organization of Migration (IOM) provides returnees with counselling and information in the UK, coach transport to Heathrow airport, IOM representation and assistance to the departure gate.

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Under the enhanced VARRP programme, returnees also receive a £500 resettlement grant at the departure airport.

Work Permits

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether NHS trusts will be able to remove from shortlists doctors who require work permits but who had already been selected for interview before the new regulations came into force. [74603]

Mr. Byrne: The changes to the Immigration Rules for Postgraduate Doctors and Dentists were announced by the Department of Health on 7 March
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2006. We put transitional arrangements in place for those who had been offered a recognised training post before this date and which commences before 4 August 2006.

Those offered a post on or after 7 March 2006 would not be covered by these transitional arrangements, and the employer would need to show why they could not fill their post with a resident worker in order to be granted a work permit for a non-EEA national.

The new Rules came into effect on 3 April 2006. Before this date, those meeting the old Rules would still have been eligible for leave as a Postgraduate Doctor or Dentist.

The full transitional arrangements are available on the IND website at

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