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MPs Get Down To Business On Alcohol

MPs began crawling through the committee stage of the Alcohol Reform Bill on Tuesday afternoon getting to debate on part two of the bill by the time of the dinner adjournment.

Prior to the start of the debate Deputy Speaker Eric Roy indicated that five of the votes would be personal votes. These included amendments on reduced trading hours and a ban on liquor outlets within one kilometre of a school.

Leading off the debate, Lianne Dalziel said the bill and the changes proposed did not go far enough to address the concerns of many in the community about the harm alcohol was doing.

She believed the public wanted stronger regulation to minimise alcohol harm.

Justice Minister Judith Collins said the 1989 liquor law reform tried to introduce a ``European café style’’ culture in New Zealand which she believed had not worked.

Collins said the current bill was an attempt to balance the need for regulation while recognising that the majority of New Zealand used alcohol without abusing it.

The vote on part one took place at 5.15 after the debate started after 3pm.

There are 11 parts to the bill.

Part one was accepted as amended by 118 to two with all parties in favour, but with Labour casting 30 in favour and two opposed.

Part Two of the bill on the legal age to purchase alcohol was dealt with earlier by Parliament with MPs electing to retain it at 18. However Hone Harawira sought a review of that decision in five years time and put forward an amendment to that effect.

This was still being debated when the House rose for the dinner break at 6pm.

The rewrite of alcohol legislation follows a Law Commission review, but the Government’s response has not satisfied opposition parties and some MPs believe the debate will take up the vast bulk of this week’s parliamentary business.

The Government has tabled a large number of amendments to the select committee report on the bill, with the report itself almost 300 pages long.

Opposition parties have also produced volumes of amendment covering everything from alcohol labelling through to minimum pricing regulations and liquor selling restrictions.

There is little unity across parties and Labour MPs want to enforce individual votes for MPs during the committee stage though National had decided to cast a bloc vote on amendments.

**
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