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Government faces Sunday trading revolt

The government is reportedly facing a rebellion from dozens of Conservative MPs over its plans to allow shops in England and Wales to open for longer on Sundays.

However, the plans are expected to clear the House of Commons as part of the Enterprise Bill this week after the Scottish National Party appeared to soften its stance on the issue.

David Burrowes, Tory MP for Enfield Southgate, told Sky News dozens of Conservative ministers and parliamentary private secretaries were prepared to revolt against or abstain from voting on the bill unless the plans were amended. Changes being sought include restricting deregulation to tourist zones.

Combined with a vote against from Labour and the SNP, this could have been enough to defeat the bill. However, the SNP has reportedly agreed to abstain if certain safeguards are put in place.

The SNP previously announced its intention to vote against the move over fears Scottish workers’ wages and jobs would be at risk from increased competition south of the border.

But a source told the BBC: “We may now abstain if we’re confident our concerns have been met.”

It comes despite new research, which suggests relaxing Sunday trading laws could cost the Scottish economy £71m.

The report by consultancy firm Biggar Economics found more than 60,000 retail employees in Scotland work for UK-wide companies and receive premium pay to work on a Sunday, typically time and a half. If this was ended, their income would fall by £74m.

This would reduce Scotland’s economic output by £71m and potentially result in the loss of 1,104 jobs, the report concluded.

Chancellor George Osborne unveiled plans to give local authorities and elected mayors the power to extend Sunday opening hours in his summer Budget last year. Currently, only small shops (up to 3,000 sq ft) are allowed to open for more than six hours on a Sunday.

The government said: “Extending Sunday trading hours will provide businesses with more flexibility in their opening hours so that they are better able to meet their customers’ needs and compete with online retailers that can trade 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“By devolving these powers we are empowering local citizens through local authorities to decide whether extending Sunday trading hours is right for their local area.”





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