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A vote by our MPs to lower the drink-driving limit could go either way - because National's MPs have been ordered to keep the limit high.

The Herald on Sunday has canvassed all non-National Party MPs and discovered that almost all would vote to bring the drink-drive limit down. But their National counterparts are under instructions to vote for the status quo.

We found that 58 of the 122 MPs are willing to vote to change the law.

Three Maori Party MPs could not be contacted, but if they were to join their co-leaders Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia in support of a lower limit, the vote would be tied 61-all.

Prime Minister John Key's office confirmed on Friday that National's 58 MPs would not be given the freedom to cast a vote according to their beliefs. Instead, they will be forced to vote to keep the limit where it was - or face being sent into the political wilderness. Three Act MPs also signalled they would vote against a cut.

Backing a cut were two Act MPs, all Labour and Green MPs and three independents.

The call to lower the limit follows advice from the Ministry of Transport - with scientific support - that a drop would save up to 33 lives a year and prevent 686 injuries.

However, Transport Minister Steven Joyce has delayed a cut from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg in favour of more research.

But Labour MP Darren Hughes is planning on giving Parliament the chance to vote for change early next year.

Hughes has led the political charge on the campaign with a private member's bill which would cut the limit.

That has to be drawn from a ballot though, so Hughes is planning to hijack Joyce's new drinking laws on their way through Parliament.

The political process means the legislation, which includes cuts to alcohol limits for drivers under 20 and toughens drink-driving penalties, is investigated by a parliamentary committee.

The first step of that process has been completed and the bill will be sent back to Parliament to be debated early next year.

Hughes said he would ask Parliament to amend the bill and if enough MPs voted to do so, then provision for a cut in the limit could be added. Hughes said: "A single National MP with the courage of their convictions to cross the floor would make this happen.

"These people you have polled would get the chance. All it would take is one National MP to break the deadlock."

Hughes said there were National Party MPs who could feel compelled to vote to change the limit, including doctors Jackie Blue, Jonathan Coleman and Paul Hutchison.

He added that National's Simon Bridges - who had previously prosecuted drink-drivers in court - should also be sympathetic.

The proposed cut is in line with two major polls on the issue. The Ministry of Transport found 86 per cent support for cutting the amount legally allowed to be drunk before driving.

A Herald on Sunday poll found a similar result.

But Bridges said he would not budge on the party position. "We have got an agreed position. I personally have not seen the evidence."

He said the real problem was with recidivist drink drivers - even though research shows most alcohol-related fatal accidents in NZ involve drivers with no drink-driving history.

National Party president Peter Goodfellow said the party believed it had the support of the public for sticking with the higher limit.