Major alcohol reforms have been passed in Parliament this
evening, concluding a four-year debate over drinking laws in
MPs have voted to pass the reforms, which were designed to
reduce the harm caused by alcohol.
Justice Minister Judith Collins said the Alcohol Reform Bill,
which was now divided into three bills, struck a "sensible
balance" by reducing the serious harm caused by alcohol
without penalising people who drank responsibly.
She told the Herald: "There will improvements in the way
alcohol can be sold, and there will be some reforms about
young people's access to alcohol.
But it's not "going to be the full answer. Obviously people
need to change the culture and their own behaviour.''
Ms Collins said she had been disappointed that MPs had voted
against a higher purchase age in September. But she was
confident that the bill provided a number of tools for
battling alcohol-related harm.
She emphasised the importance of the bill's local alcohol
policies, which gave councils power to set their own alcohol
rules in consultation with residents.
This could include stricter opening hours for bars or liquor
stores, or banning bottle shops near schools.
If local authorities did not adopt local policies, they would
follow new national rules such as banning bars from opening
between 4am and 8am.
Opposition members described the bill as a "missed
opportunity" which had strayed from the original
recommendations made by the Law Commission in 2010.
Labour MP Lianne Dalziel said: "It is not a shadow of the law
the Law Commission would have written, and that is why I've
been saying throughout this debate that it is a travesty.''
She felt it was a toothless piece of legislation because it
did not address the price, availability or promotion of
Another Labour MP, Iain Lees-Galloway, argued that the bill
had been heavily influenced by lobbyists such as the Food and
Grocery Council and the Hospitality Association.
He said this was particularly evident in the decision not to
restrict the sale or alcohol content of alcopops, which the
Law Commission had singled out as a favourite choice of binge
drinkers and young women.
The industry would be left to draw up its own voluntary code
on alcopops, but the government would step in if it did not
think the industry was acting on it.
As well as giving councils a greater say in alcohol policy,
the bill banned the sale of alcohol from convenience stores
and restricted the promotion and sale of alcohol in
It also required express consent to be given to minors for
the consumption of alcohol, which could be provided by
parents or guardians in person, in a note, or in a text
message or phone call.
Most of the major changes would come into effect in 12
- by Isaac Davison