Alcohol reform unlikely before election 16/06/2011

The Government’s alcohol reforms may not pass before the election, with the select committee considering them deciding it needs more time. Alcohol reform is back in the spotlight since King’s College student David Gaynor, 17, died after being ejected from the school ball for allegedly being intoxicated. Prime Minister John Key said this week that he hoped the Alcohol Reform Bill would be back before Parliament before November’s election. The bill gives communities more power to veto new liquor licences, reduces opening hours, limits the alcohol content of ready-to-drink beverages (RTDs) and proposes splitting the alcohol buying age to 18 for bars and 20 for off-licences. The justice and electoral select committee has received 8000 submissions on the bill and was due to report to Parliament on June 23. That has been changed to August 30. Parliament is due to rise for the election on October 23 and, with an already heavy workload, is left with little time for the bill to be passed through its remaining stages.

The Green Party suggests intense lobbying by the food and alcohol industry has led to the delay. Health spokeswoman and committee member Sue Kedgley said she believed there was a “go-slow” on the bill. An overwhelming majority of submitters said the bill needed to be strengthened to deal with issues such as alcohol price, marketing and sponsorship, she said, and the Government feared a backlash if the law was too weak. “There is a real window of opportunity here. There is cross-party support, the public is clamouring for it. Public opinion is way ahead of the Government on this one.” Committee chairman and National MP Chester Borrows agreed most submitters wanted tougher reforms. “But they don’t have to write the law and they don’t have to enforce the law.”