Changes to Sunday trading are still on the table

The Prime Minister this week revived proposals to allow shops to open for longer on Sundays.

The idea of watering down previous restrictions on Sunday trading – or at least giving local councils the option to do so – was first floated by the Government last year.

However, the plans attracted considerable opposition from the trade union movement, the Scottish National Party (SNP) and some of the Conservative Party’s own backbenchers – who felt ill at ease with the proposals.

The resistance to change in some quarters had led to questions about whether the Government would be able to get the necessary legislation through the House of Commons and there was speculation that ministers may drop the proposals.

But now the Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, has confirmed that the idea is still very much on the agenda.

He told the House of Commons that the changes would bring an end to the idea that “Whitehall knows best” and empower local councils to adopt arrangements which they believe are best for their area.

Supporters of changes to the current laws believe that there is genuine opportunity to boost economic growth.

Others fear that new legislation would leave smaller stores at a disadvantage and have accused ministers of pressing ahead with a policy which did not feature in the Tories’ election manifesto.

Further controversy has been generated by the fact that MPs previously gave assurances that a temporary relaxation of Sunday trading laws during the 2012 Olympics was not a precursor to permanent change.

James Lowman, the chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, said: “Changing Sunday trading regulations will not help the high street. It would actually damage small high street stores as trade would get diverted to large out of town supermarkets.”