Mick Bates AM puts himself in the shoes of a shopworker

November 10, 2009 11:45 PM

Montgomeryshire AM Mick Bates put himself in the shoes of shopworkers trying to decide whether a young person is old enough to buy alcohol.

The event in the Welsh Assembly was part of retail union Usdaw's Freedom From Fear campaign. This year the campaign is focussing on the difficult decisions shopworkers face on a daily basis when trying to decide whether someone looks old enough to buy alcohol or other age-restricted goods.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Mick Bates said:

"This exercise made me realise just how hard it is to tell the age of a young person. Shopworkers have to make that on-the-spot judgement all the time. Refusing to serve someone who is underage is often a flashpoint for abuse, both physical and verbal, but even asking for ID is often enough to make many people kick-off at the shopworker.

"On the other hand, if the shopworker serves someone who is underage, they are liable to an £80 fixed penalty notice, with repeated breaches incurring a court appearance or a fine of up to £1,000.

"Shopworkers aren't paid huge amounts and they are in a difficult position of having to guess who to challenge. I hope that shoppers in Montgomeryshire will be patient with shopworkers and produce ID if asked.

"I am also asking the Government to look at whether the balance is right on this issue. I believe that there is too much responsibility on the shopworker and not enough on the person who is attempting to buy underage. I want there to be a high profile campaign making it clear to youngsters that it is illegal for them to attempt to purchase alcohol underage. I also want to see local retailers display that information prominently in their stores."

John Hannett, Usdaw General Secretary, added:

"We are delighted that Mr Bates is supporting our campaign on behalf of shopworkers in Montgomeryshire.

"We want to raise awareness of this issue amongst young people at schools and colleges, so that they know to carry proof of age when buying restricted goods.

"We want employers to understand the pressures that their staff face and to support them with simple reporting systems, prompt response when a threatened worker calls for help and banning persistent offenders from stores.

"In addition, Usdaw is campaigning with the Government. We are asking them to introduce a single, national proof of age card, to make it easier for workers to check the person's age when needed.

"And we want to see a change in the law to make it an offence for an under age person to attempt to buy any age-restricted product or for an adult to proxy purchase any age-restricted product. This would make things simpler and fairer, allowing the authorities to take action against purchasers as well as sellers."

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