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Sunday trading changes face hurdle

A proposal to allow shops to open for longer on Sundays could be defeated by a group of rebel MPs.

The proposal, which was unveiled by chancellor George Osborne in his summer budget, would give councils the power to decide Sunday trading hours.

Currently, only small shops (up to 3,000 sq ft) are allowed to open for more than six hours on a Sunday; this could allow larger retailers to follow suit. 

The measure is likely to be included in the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill currently going through parliament.

However, 20 Tory MPs are planning to vote against it for a variety of reasons, including the belief that it will harm small businesses. Others may abstain.

Combined with Labour’s vote and potentially that of the SNP, this could be enough to defeat the bill.

Communities and local government secretary Greg Clark is due to meet with some of the Tory MPs today to discuss their concerns.

One of those MPs, Sir Roger Gale, who voted down plans to relax Sunday trading when they were first proposed by Margaret Thatcher in the 80s, told Drapers: “People ought to be able to manage and organise their lives so they can shop on six days out of seven. I believe in a day of rest, not just in a Christian sense.”

He argued that it was not cost effective for smaller shops to open on or trade for longer on a Sunday, when high street footfall is minimal. As such, it could be detrimental to the high street if multiples in nearby shopping centres and retail parks are allowed to open later.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “We are considering the responses to the consultation on Sunday Trading [which closed on September 16] and will publish the government’s response in due course.”

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