House rejects MFP's 'progressive liquor' bill

House rejects MFP's 'progressive liquor' bill

The so-called "progressive liquor" bill proposed by the opposition Move Forward Party (MFP) was yesterday shot down in its second and third readings at the House of Representatives.

The vote conducted after debates on the draft law in its second reading stood at 173 in favour, 177 against and 11 abstentions, while four MPs did not participate. By comparison, the votes in the third reading yielded 194 in favour, 196 against and 15 abstentions.

MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat criticised the government for approving a new ministerial announcement on alcohol production control only a day before the party's alcohol bill entered its second and third readings yesterday.

"I would have appreciated this new ministerial regulation if it had come four years ago," Mr Pita said.

"The real motive behind the move can't be seen as anything but an intention to derail the MFP's bill."

Worse still, he said, while the new ministerial announcement approved by the cabinet on Tuesday may look promising in terms of the benefits promised to small producers of alcoholic beverages, the reality could be quite different.

After looking deeply into the details of the new regulations, he said they could pose even stiffer barriers to small makers of alcoholic beverages.

Mr Pita described the new rule as a last-ditch attempt by the government to safeguard the interests of big alcohol companies.

He said it burdens small distillers with having to seek permission from the Excise Department, while the MFP's alcohol bill only requires they register.

"Under the regulation, anyone who wants to produce alcoholic beverages for commercial purposes has to register as a legal entity or a partnership, not to mention the requirement that they will have to wait another year to upgrade their machinery after having to use less than 5 horsepower for a full year," Mr Pita said.

"Even small pubs that brew their own beers for sale are required, under the regulation, to seek an industrial factory licence."

A factory operation licence is required for any company that wants to produce 30,000 litres or more a year of certain distilled alcoholic drinks including whisky, gin and brandy, or at least 90,000 litres per year of other types of distilled beverages, he added.

Deputy government spokeswoman Tipanan Sirichana dismissed Mr Pita's accusation, saying the new ministerial regulation had been proposed and decided on as part of the normal working process.

"More importantly, before [it] was approved by the cabinet, it went through the proper public hearings," Ms Tipanan said.

She said the new regulation does not only prioritise helping small enterprises to enter the alcoholic beverage-making industry, but also ensuring at the same time the safety and quality of their products, which will directly impact the health of consumers.

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