Latest Public Sector News

09.03.16

Sunday trading devolution could face defeat as SNPs to vote against plans

Controversial Sunday trading proposals that would allow councils to set hours could be defeated in a House of Commons vote this afternoon after it was announced that the Scottish National Party (SNP) will not abstain from voting.

The House of Commons will vote on the Enterprise Bill this afternoon, with SNP, Labour and some Conservative MPs opposed. The SNP said that they would vote against the changes because there is no guarantee that premium pay currently available for some Scottish workers on Sundays will be protected if working hours are extended in other parts of the UK. Their involvement means that the bill could be defeated if 20 Conservative MPs rebel against it.

The government released an impact assessment today saying that extended Sunday trading hours could generate £1.5bn for the economy over the next 10 years, and tried to introduce last-minute amendments that would allow a pilot scheme to run across the UK before full implementation of the plan, but this was stymied after the measure wasn’t selected by the Commons speaker.

Communities minister Brandon Lewis said: “Current Sunday trading rules are badly out of date and haven’t kept up with how we live our lives. We want to change the rules, so families can shop for longer, town centre stores can compete with the online giants, and more jobs are created for working people.”

The Bill also contains measures designed to protect workers, such as zoning laws which will prioritise relaxation in high streets and city centres and measures allowing shop workers to give one month’s notice instead of three that they don’t want to work Sundays and obliging employers to notify workers about their rights.

A spokesperson for Keep Sunday Special, which is launching a judicial review into the proposed changes, said: “Giving local authorities free reign over Sunday trading hours will have a damaging impact on shop workers, families and the economy. The government cannot be allowed to get away with forcing through this measure – we urge MPs from all parties to vote against the plans.”

David Burrowes MP, the Conservative leader of those opposed to Sunday trading, said: “The government needs to spend less time trying to accommodate the Scottish nationalists and more time listening to Conservative colleagues many of whom will be rebelling for the first time ever, new intake and old intake alike.

“What they want the government to do is to come to a sensible compromise where the main demand for deregulation, which comes from tourist areas such as the West End, is permitted, but not in areas where demand in minimal or non-existent.

“Let’s have the West End open for 12 Sundays a year like in France which would let tourists shop until they drop, but let’s not let it negatively disrupt the rest of our country and our values.”

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