Police, local authorities and government ministers have come together to discuss the controversial red and yellow card system for dealing with shops, pubs and clubs that sell alcohol irresponsibly.

Home Office minister Vernon Coaker and licensing minister Gerry Sutcliffe called the meeting last week to explore ways in which the football-style card system could be implemented.

A yellow card could be used to put problem premises on immediate probation, together with tough new sanctions, while stores caught selling alcohol to underage youths twice in a two-month period could be issued with a red card and have their licences withdrawn.

Ministers said that the system - which had already been criticised by retailers - would be highly visible and "send a clear message that action will be taken against those who act contrary to the licensing objectives and the law."

Sutcliffe said: "Most licensees take their responsibilities seriously, but we need to be sure that those who don't are quickly dealt with. There is a range of powers available that are being used effectively in many areas, but there is not a consistent picture across the country. 

"We want to hear from police and local authorities about what has worked well in their area, and what problems prevent existing powers and resources being targeted effectively."

The key points identified at the meeting will be used to inform a series of regional workshops in the coming months.

Coaker added: "I am grateful for the ongoing support of our police and local authority partners in clamping down on the minority of problem premises. By working together we have already achieved a great deal - in the last national campaign fewer than 15% of premises repeatedly sold alcohol to children, down from nearly 50% three years ago."

The meeting coincided with the week that new Alcohol Disorder Zone legislation come into force.

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