Curbs on pubs could be relaxed

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The Independent Online
Pubs may be able to stay open beyond 11pm without having to obtain special permission under proposals being examined by the Government, it was confirmed yesterday, writes Chris Blackhurst.

At present, pub hours are set by Parliament, and magistrates are allowed to issue one-off dispensations to stay open after 11pm. But, following the relaxation of daytime hours, Michael Forsyth, Home Office minister, said in a parliamentary answer: "I am considering arguments for and against some relaxation in the licensing hours for public houses on weekday evenings."

Michael Fabricant, Conservative MP for Mid Staffordshire, who put the question to Mr Forsyth, said that "for the sake of law and order" pub closing times should be staggered and not fixed at 11pm.

"Some pubs might be allowed to stay open until the early hours or even all night while others might be restricted to close earlier than 11pm," said Mr Fabricant.

MPs will be asked by Mr Fabricant today to widen the scope of the Standing Committee examining the Licensing (Sunday Hours) Bill, which would allow all-day drinking on Sundays, to consider including provision for magistrates to have "unlimited discretion" to set opening hours for days other than Sundays.

Mr Fabricant said he would like "to see a more reasoned approach to pub closing times giving local licensing magistrates the discretion to decide for themselves when pubs should close."