ON the face of it, Britain's retail co-ops have more than played their part in the ongoing campaign to prevent alcohol being supplied to under-18s in stores.
Employees of all societies have constantly been kept informed of the extraordinary lengths the Movement has gone to in a bid to tackle this problem.
For instance, the Co-operative Group has issued videos and booklets to staff; reminded employees of their obligations by way of messages in their pay packets; re-trained ‘offending' employees and spent a whopping £ 1.2 million on staff training and re-training.
Similar procedures are in place throughout the Movement and the ‘Challenge 21' policy – whereby anyone who looks as though they might be under that age is asked to produce evidence that they are at least 18 before they are sold restricted items such as alcohol – has proved an effective and practical aid to enforcing the law around the country.
But however well these strategies are executed, the suspicion remains that they are piecemeal and will never solve the problem entirely.
The trouble is, as the shopworkers' union Usdaw has identified, is that the current strategies, however well-meaning, can expose staff to the risk of abuse and even violence when would-be purchasers are denied alcohol.
Home Secretary Charles Clarke recently expressed his concern to the industry after summer ‘stings' revealed a high proportion of sales to minors.
But while all Britain's supermarkets are committed to enforcing and strengthening procedures, what is really need is a national scheme – whether it be ‘Challenge 21' or ‘No ID, No Sale'.
There might still be flashpoints where alcohol was refused, but at least there would be consistency and clarity throughout the land. Over to you, Mr Clarke.