A Tory MP has written to his local police force asking officers to “turn a blind eye” to pubs opening an hour early for the Women’s World Cup final this weekend.
Pubs can choose when they open on Sundays, but the time from which they can start selling alcohol varies depending on each pub’s individual licence.
Ministers have rejected calls from the Liberal Democrats to recall parliament and relax laws around alcohol licencing, while MPs have called on the authorities to ignore instances of publicans serving outside of their usual hours.
The Lionesses will take on Spain in the final of the Women’s World Cup on Sunday, with kick off at 11am in the UK.
Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove has urged local councils to “do everything they can to help pubs get open earlier on Sunday, so people can come together and enjoy a drink before kick-off for this special occasion”.
But Michael Fabricant, the Conservative MP for Lichfield, has gone further by asking his local police force to “turn a blind eye” to any pubs opening early.
In a letter to Staffordshire Police chief constable Chris Noble and Staffordshire police and fire commissioner Ben Adams, he wrote: “As you know, the Women’s World Cup Final will be held at 11am (BST) on Sunday.
“I think it would be a marvellous gesture if pubs could be allowed to open early and, although this would be contrary to the law, the police might turn a blind eye on this one occasion only.”
The sale of alcohol is widely prohibited before 10am on Sunday, but venues such as pubs also have specific hours they can stay open and serve alcohol depending on individual licences.
Temporary changes to licensing laws in England and Wales have been made for special events in the past, such as the Euro 2020 final and the late Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.
Under the Licensing Act 2003, tweaks to licensing laws have to be approved by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords – both of which are currently in recess.
The Liberal Democrats have called on the government to recall parliament and “score a last-minute winner for our pubs and the Lionesses” – but that call has been rejected.
A government spokesperson told Sky News: “Recognising this momentous occasion, we want to encourage the police and local authorities to work together for maximum flexibility to make sure that the country can enjoy the match and get behind the Lionesses altogether.”
Recalling parliament would involve the taxpayer funding last-minute travel for both MPs and peers to return to Westminster, which would likely be very expensive.
Pubs can still open from 10am, even if they cannot serve booze before kick-off at 11am.