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PM challenged to allow conscience vote on alcohol bill

Published: 7:04PM Tuesday July 31, 2012 Source: ONE News

The opposition is calling on the Prime Minister to allow his MPs to have a conscience vote on alcohol reform instead of making them tow the party line.

There appears to be division in National on issues like minimum pricing, which some doctors in the party support but are likely to have to vote against.

Scotland is introducing minimum alcohol pricing, and both the Law Commission and Children's Commissioner believe it is a way to tackle alcohol abuse in New Zealand.

Labour and the Greens are proposing amending the Alcohol Reform Bill to include minimum pricing.

But it is unlikely to become law here because National's leader doesn't back it.

"I personally hold the view that minimum pricing is not likely to be tremendously successful," Key said.

That is despite doctors within the party appearing to support minimum pricing.

"I think there is merit in it - in the minimum price - definitely. But I will be voting with the Government on whatever that decision will be," said Dr Jackie Blue, National list MP.

Hunua's National MP, Dr Paul Hutchison, said minimum pricing is one of many ways to diminish harm from alcohol.

"It's one of that spectrum."

For Labour MPs, all of the alcohol amendments will be a conscience vote and the party is calling on Key not to make his MPs tow the party line.

"This is a whole new area for the National Party," said Chris Hipkins, Labour whip.

"Alcohol issues have always been individual judgement issues for Members of Parliament. Why John Key doesn't trust his own members to exercise their own judgement is really something you should ask him."

So ONE News did that.

"We don't think that that would make for very coherent law making for that to be a conscience issue," Key said.

Despite the opinion of some within National's rank, a conscience vote appears out of the question.