- Government defeated by 317 votes to 286 over relaxation of Sunday trading
- BRC said industry was split on the controversial issue
- Campaigners claimed changes would have affected Sunday’s special status
MPs have voted against controversial government plans to allow large shops to open longer on Sundays in England and Wales.
The government was defeated by 317 votes to 286 in the House of Commons over proposals to allow shops larger than 3,000 sq ft to open longer than the current six-hour limit.
Ministers had tried to avoid a Tory rebellion by promising to trial the changes in 12 areas and review their impact after a year.
However critics of the plans, first unveiled in George Osborne’s post-election Budget last summer, said they would “chip away” at Sunday’s special status and put undue pressure on shop workers.
Labour opposed the plans as it says the current rules work well and allow shop workers to spend time with their families. The SNP was also against the plans.
The Association of Convenience Stores had strongly opposed to the plans, while the BRC had called for safeguards if the law changed.
Founder of toy retailer The Entertainer, Gary Grant, welcomed the result. “We need to put family values before money,” he told the BBC.
In a statement the BRC’s chief executive Helen Dickinson said this evening: “There are different views across retail over whether the relaxation of Sunday Trading hours is a good or a bad thing for retailers and their staff.
”This is much more dependent on the structure of individual business than their size or location, which both local government and central government must keep in mind.”
She added: “Sunday trading relaxation was never going to answer the key questions over the future of the high street. Of much, much more importance is the Government’s review of the business rates system which concludes at next week’s Budget.”
The British Council of Shopping Centres (BCSC) said it was “highly disappointed” that MPs rejected the plans.
Edward Cooke, the BCSC’s director of policy and public affairs, said: “This whole reform process has been farcical and the SNP blocking changes to a system driven by a desire to localise decision making is the cherry on top.”
He added: “Reform would have enabled retailers to more closely align this aspect of their online and physical store operations and address the wild inconsistencies in trading hours between leisure, restaurant and retail outlets.
“Change is essential if retailers are to meet consumer demand – with our own footfall data showing that the number of shoppers continues to increase outside of office hours.”