But Starmer said MPs were only getting a straight “take-it-or-leave-it” choice on the curfew and so Labour would not oppose the regulations because that would risk no restrictions being in place at all.
He urged Boris Johnson to learn from Wales, where there is a 10pm deadline for selling alcohol but drinkers are given time to finish so they are not all kicked out of venues at the same time.
In England there have been concerns that ordering venues to physically close at 10pm was leading to people all leaving at the same time and packing together on public transport, which could pose a higher risk of spreading Covid-19.
The rule also means many pubs are forced to call last orders at 9.30pm, further reducing the time in which they can make money compared to establishments in Wales.
There have also been concerns that the government has failed to provide scientific evidence for a 10pm curfew, which has not been discussed or modelled by its own Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).
On Thursday, Starmer told broadcasters: “There’s growing concern about the 10pm curfew and lots of examples of everybody coming out of venues at the same time and causing a problem with the way people are exiting.
“We need this reform, there’s a smarter way of doing this.”
He went on: “The problem with the vote next week is it’s an up-down take-it-or-leave-it vote and therefore if you vote down the current arrangements there won’t be any restrictions in place.
“That’s not what we want so we won’t be down the restrictions that are in place.
“But we do say to the government – reform the 10pm rule, show us the evidence, do it in a much smarter way.”