The Home Office instruction comes as a massive test purchasing campaign gets under way across England and Wales. The government has put £1.2 million into a 10-week blitz, starting today, which will see 166 police basic command units targeting up to 20 "problematic" on and off-trade premises on their patches.
The campaign will be underpinned by the Violent Crime Reduction Act, which gives police the power to shut down stores for up to 48 hours and apply for a licence review for failing stores (OLN, April 6).
There has been confusion in some quarters of the trade about the campaign in the absence of any public statement from the Home Office. But the department broke its silence this week, confirming that the tests were going ahead - though not in every area.
"It's about making sure minors cannot get access to alcohol," said a spokesman. "Regardless of whether the test purchase was successful or otherwise, retailers will be given feedback as soon as practicable."
Sixty-one police units will not be taking part. "There's no particular common thread linking the decisions - it's a fairly similar proportion to previous years," the spokesman said.
Wine & Spirit Trade Association chief executive Jeremy Beadles said his organisation had campaigned for 18 months for better feedback to retailers and welcomed the Home Office's move. He warned that cigarette test purchasing was likely to intensify in October when the legal age for purchasing tobacco is raised to 18.
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