United Future leader Peter Dunne has ruled out supporting Labour's bid to put a minimum price on alcohol, possibly sinking the plans designed to halt binge drinking.
Labour has been drumming up support for the plan in Parliament, hoping to add a clause to the Alcohol Law Reform Bill, which would give the Ministry of Justice the power to set a minimum price for a drink.
"It's very easy, for particularly young women, to pre-load with cheap wine from the supermarkets and then go out on the town and get drunker and drunker," Labour MP Charles Chavuel said last week.
"If instead of being able to buy a bottle of cheap wine for $6 from the supermarket, a minimum pricing regime puts that up to 12, 13 or 14 dollars then it's much harder for people to lay their hands on cheap booze," Chauvel said.
But, Dunne told TV ONE's Q+A programme this morning he would not support Labour's amendment as currently proposed, describing it as "elitist".
"To say that we'll have a minimum price of $12 for a bottle of wine because people who can't afford to pay $12 shouldn't pay a lesser price, but Chardonnay socialists who can pay $25, $30 for a bottle of wine will still be able to get their wine. I think that's a really elitist and ridiculous argument."
Dunne said if there was evidence that showed that the scheme was workable he would consider it.
"But I have to say, putting my hat on as Associate Health Minister for a moment, a lot of the material that I've seen from other jurisdictions raises more doubts than support for the issue of minimum alcohol pricing."
He adds his decision was less to do with voting on it in the house, and more the correct policy outcome.
However, if it came to it, Dunne would hold the deciding vote in a Parliament split right down the middle.
Labour's drafted proposal has drawn the support of all parties on the left.
"We know that many, many people are not responsible because we have large numbers of deaths associated around alcohol," Maori Part co-leader Tariana Turia said.
But on the right, while the Government's asked justice ministry officials to investigate whether a minimum alcohol price would help, the Prime Minister remains unconvinced.
"Instead of buying a $10 bottle of wine that might go to $15, they'll buy a $5 bottle of wine that'll cost $10. Their outlay is the same, the quality of what they're buying is worse," John Key said.
The Law Commission said one standard drink of wine can be bought in this country for as little as 60 cents, spirits for 81 cents and beer for 85 cents.
Under Labour's recommendations, all outlets selling alcohol will be required to provide price and sales data to the Government, which will inform the Government's consideration of a minimum alcohol price at a future point in time.
Scotland became the first country in Europe to pass a law setting a minimum price for alcohol in May. England, Wales, Ireland and Australia are expected to follow suit.