Senior Tories step up pressure on Cameron to ease Sunday trading rules
By TIM SHIPMAN
PUBLISHED: 00:11 GMT, 14 August 2012 | UPDATED: 12:11 GMT, 15 August 2012
Plans to let shops stay open for longer on Sundays will be considered by David Cameron, Downing Street said yesterday.
Senior Tories are pushing to make permanent the extended Sunday trading hours which were brought in for the Olympics.
Currently large shops are only allowed to open for any six hours between 10am and 6pm on Sundays.
Senior Tories want to make extended Sunday opening hours permanent
Ministers agreed to extend the limit to eight hours for the duration of the Olympics and Paralympics to allow retailers to cash in on tourists flocking to the UK.
Some ministers, including Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, want to make the extension permanent.
They risk a row with some Liberal Democrats, who fear the response of the unions, and MPs on the Tory right, who want to ‘keep Sunday sacred’.
Small business campaigners also fear the move would undermine micro firms and corner shops, which currently gain an advantage because they can open for longer than superstores on Sunday. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman yesterday indicated that once the trial period is over on September 9, No 10 would want to examine the economic impact to see if extending the hours permanently could give a boost to the economy.
He said: ‘There was a specific Act of Parliament passed for the period of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
‘The legislation means that it is there for a defined period. I am sure that people will want to reflect on the experience of those weeks. A number of people want to look at this issue.’
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles (pictured left) is among those who want to go ahead with extended Sunday opening hours in contrast to Vince Cable (right)
But Business Secretary Vince Cable is digging in his heels, pointing out that the Bill setting up the extended hours has a sunset clause that would require new legislation and a public consultation if the Government were to go ahead.
A source close to Mr Cable said: ‘We gave a commitment to Parliament that this would not happen by the backdoor.
‘If at a later point there were calls to look at this again, a new consultation would need to take place, taking into account the very strong opposition from the small business and church lobby.’
Whitehall sources say business minister Mark Prisk, a Conservative right-winger, is more outspokenly opposed to a change than Mr Cable.
Senior Tory backbench MP Mark Pritchard said on Monday the Government had ‘got it wrong’ by pushing to extend Sunday trading hours. He and other Tory right-wingers are pushing for the Department for Business to lift the burdens of red tape on businesses instead.
He said: ‘I don’t think extending Sunday trading hours would necessarily bring about significant growth.
‘When the extension went ahead, [the Government] said that this would be temporary only. I think all of us deserve rest and that includes shop workers.’