Plans set to be included in a consultative Green Paper expected by the end of the year would sweep away the ban on opening between 3pm and 7pm, bringing the law into line with that in Scotland.
Alongside this is a proposal for late-night opening without seeking permission from magistrates - although this may be watered down to opening until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays only.
A consultation exercise launched by the Home Office last year found publicans in favour of both moves, which they say would open the way for more jobs.
The paper, which could also propose the end of restricted off-licence opening hours, is the responsibility of Michael Forsyth, the keen deregulator who moved from Employment to the Home Office in the reshuffle.
Given the relaxation on Sunday shopping restrictions and horse-racing, ministers believe the limitation on pub opening hours is no longer needed.
They point to the 1988 reform of licensing laws that allowed pubs to remain open throughout the afternoon for the first time. They do not believe the relaxation has led to an increase in drunkenness, offensive behaviour or violence.Reuse content