Westminster council is seeking a 'get out clause to legislation allowing shops to trade for 24 hours a day.

Under the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill, which is before the Lords, stores and restaurants will be able to set their opening times instead of being bound by local authority restrictions. Westminster believes councils should have some control over retailers' hours. Shops in the borough can now trade until 8pm five days a week and until 9pm on one night.

Areas of particular concern are newsagents, who could opt to stock food for microwaves to catch the post-pub trade, and independent record stores, which have a poor record for compliance with existing rules.

Robert Moreland, chairman of the council's parliamentary and public affairs sub-committee, said it has written to the Department of Trade and Industry asking for discretionary powers to impose restrictions after 11pm. 'We don't want to deny people who work all day the convenience and pleasure of late-night shopping. However, there will be areas like Queensway where housing is near shops.

The Bill, due to become law by Christmas, has been criticised by the police who fear all-night cafes will provide a screen for drug deals and prostitution.

The DTI said local authorities had been consulted when the Bill was prepared.