24 Sep 2008

Govt accused of shelving public health reform

5:31 pm on 24 September 2008

The Green Party is accusing the Government of shelving a major rewrite of public health laws under pressure from the food industry.

The Government confirmed it has run out of time in which to pass the substantial Public Health Bill into law before the election on 8 November.

The bill updates outdated health laws and includes contentious provisions enabling regulations to be passed to help fight non-communicable diseases, including obesity.

The bill was hotly debated by the National Party, which says provisions allowing the Government to regulate to deal with obesity are the "nanny state" gone mad.

The Green Party's health spokesperson and chair of Parliament's health select committee, Sue Kedgley, says such provisions will be watered down if National becomes government. The Greens supported the bill.

However, the Government says it was not pressured, and the bill remains a priority.

Health Minister David Cunliffe rejected suggestions that the Government bowed to food industry pressure in failing to pass the reforms ahead of the election.

He also rejected the view that the measure had been poorly managed, saying the bill remains a priority.

Mr Cunliffe said the Government simply ran out of time to get the bill through before Parliament rises on Thursday.