Major calls time on drinking curbs

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The Independent Online
John Major last night cast himself as the friend of dog-track punters and weekend drinkers by lighting a bonfire of regulations which will allow liquor sales throughout Sunday and lift a highly unpopular restriction on greyhound betting.

An end to the present licensing restrictions on Sunday pubs and counter liquor sales were among a wide-ranging series of deregulation measures announced by the Prime Minister yesterday.

Under new measures, the "compulsory afternoon break" will end. Smaller off-licences will be able to trade from 10am to 10.30pm, and supermarkets will be able to sell alcoholic drink throughout the six hours they are allowed to open on Sundays.

The Government will sweep away what Mr Major last night called the "absurd rules" which make it impossible for punters at one dog track to place bets through the tote on a race at another.

Most of the new measures are likely to be enacted under the so-called "Henry VIII" powers, which enable the government to remove red tape across an exhaustive range of businesses by secondary order.

In a speech to the Retail Consortium in London, Mr Major said Parliament would shortly be asked to approve the first batch of 55 deregulation measures already earmarked by ministers. The Government's continuing drive on deregulation will please the Tory right wing.

At the same time, Mr Major appeared to be gently calling into question the well-attested hostility of his Environment Secretary, John Gummer, to out-of-town shopping centres. While welcoming 100 town centre management projects and the new tougher tests for out-of-town centre development, Mr Major declared: "We haven't padlocked the gate to every new greenfield site."

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