The British Retail Consortium has urged the Government to take caution when reforming Sunday trading rules and is insisting on safeguards.

The industry body expressed its concerns to the Government as part of its final submission to a consultation into the proposed changes to Sunday trading.

The BRC is insisting that “meaningful” safeguards be put into place to guard against the potential chaos that will come from the Government devolving power over Sunday trading laws to local authorities.

The proposals include a controversial zoning measure, which will allow the local authority to apply different regulations to distinct areas in their localities.

In its submission, the BRC said: “There is a strong consensus across the industry that the proposal to devolve these decisions to a local level, rather than them being decided nationally, is a matter for concern.

“If the Government proceeds with devolving these powers, meaningful safeguards need to be in place.”

Safety measures

The BRC is proposing precautionary measures including local impact assessments, consultations with local citizens, a ballot of local businesses to determine support for relaxed hours and an appeals system for businesses that believe they have been unfairly treated.

The Government is forced to carry out a national impact assessment whenever it plans to introduce new primary legislation.

The BRC wants this to be carried out as soon as possible and is also insisting on separate local impact assessments.

The submission from the BRC also raises concerns over the evidence that may be used in the national impact assessment after the Government used decade-old figures when it unveiled plans to devolve Sunday trading powers.

It stated: “Not only is the data presented from 2006 when the retail industry was fundamentally different, but it also does not measure the impact of what is presently being proposed.

“The past study examines a national policy as opposed to the current localised approach being consulted on.”

The retail industry is currently split on relaxing the current rules to allow longer trading hours on a Sunday for stores over 3,000 sq ft.

Asda is a keen advocate of allowing longer opening hours, while rival Sainsbury’s, which has a large amount of convenience stores, is understood to be opposed to such proposals.