The government has accused retailers and licensees for being partly responsible for the growing problem of underage drinking. And it has threatened "tougher enforcement powers" for police and local authorities to deal with retailers who disobey the law. New Home Office research into underage drinking has found that 63% of 16 to 17 year old drinkers, and 10% of those aged 12 to 15, buy their alcohol themselves. Home Office minister Mike O'Brien said that licensees and retailers had "a positive duty" not to sell alcohol unless they knew the purchaser's age. And he again supported the idea of using kids to make test purchases of alcohol in order to catch unscrupulous retailers. O'Brien said the controversial practice would form part of a package of new enforcement measures. But James Lowman, public affairs manager of the Association of Convenience Stores, called for clarification of the phrase "positive duty". He pointed out that retailers already had to show "due diligence" in checking the age of those coming into shops to buy alcohol. And he added: "We want the government to consolidate all the voluntary proof of age schemes and get behind a single solution. "Without that, everything's working against the retailer." The Home Office survey follows publication of its Licensing White Paper earlier this year. The response of the government to the White Paper consultation process is due shortly. {{NEWS }}