Facing a rebellion from his own MPs and the prospect of losing a vote on relaxing the Sunday trading laws in England and Wales, Prime Minister David Cameron came out fighting today.
The plans to allow local authorities to decide for themselves what the trading hours on a Sunday should be was unveiled by Chancellor George Osborne in his emergency budget after the May General Election.
However, getting it through #Parliament is looking difficult with some backbench Conservatives against it, the Labour Party likely to side with unions in their opposition and the SNP undecided on whether to vote on a matter that doesn’t affect Scotland.
A range of interested parties have signalled their opposition, including the churches and unions.
Currently stores that are over 3,000 square feet (280 sq m) are allowed to open for six hours on a Sunday, but after a trial during the 2012 Olympic Games, the #Government now wants to deregulate the system, although their plan is to devolve any decision to local authorities.
Questioned on the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions today Cameron said there was a ‘very strong case’ for change, but repeated that it should be an issue for local authorities to decide.
He suggested that it was a minor issue as shops were already allowed to trade on Sundays, albeit for reduced hours. But he pointed to the fact that shopping online had no time restrictions and the same freedoms should be extended to the high street stores. He said the changes would only ‘modernise’ the current arrangements.
The Prime Minister said the proposed changes would be welcomed by families and would create more jobs at the same time.
At the start of the Labour Party Conference earlier this month Jeremy Corbyn backed a campaign by ‘Christians on the Left’, a religious group associated with the party. He held up a poster saying ‘My ideal Sunday is a day of reflection and rest – everybody deserves that.’
A vote on the plan was expected next week, but Whitehall sources say that this has been dropped and instead it is likely to be included in the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill.
Nevertheless, it sill still prove a challenge to the Conservative whips to get it onto the statute books.