Six-hour rule stays but retail review plans to simplify consumer rights and age-restriction regulations

The Government has ruled out any changes to Sunday trading hours in its overhaul of retail regulations.

Business Secretary Vince Cable revealed plans to scrap or simplify more than 160 regulations following  the Government’s Red Tape Challenge, designed to set retailers free from burdensome regulation. But Sunday trading legislation remained untouched, despite campaigning by major retailers including Next, Kingfisher and Asda to relax the six-hour trading laws.

Speaking to Retail Week, minister for business and enterprise Mark Prisk said: “We looked carefully at retailers’ views, and some will have wanted to see Sunday trading go, but many retailers – large and small – will be happy with that [the decision not to change the legislation].”

However, the review does promise to simplify legislation.

Under the plans, 12 pieces of consumer rights law will be replaced with one single piece of legislation, and multiple regulations on age-restricted sales will be consolidated. Contentious laws to be scrapped include the requirement on retailers to notify TV licensing about TV sales, the need for an alcohol licence to sell liqueur chocolates, and redundant laws such as the historical Trading with the Enemy Act.

The proposals are the first results from the Government’s Red Tape Challenge, whereby it set up a website for businesses to challenge existing laws. Of 257 regulations under consideration, two thirds have been simplified or scrapped.

Prisk said: “For the major retailers, this is about time, and time is money.” He said employee legal training would be easier and cheaper – one example of how the reform will affect the bottom line.

Kevin Hawkins, former BRC director-general and Red Tape Challenge sector champion, said: “Some of you may be thinking: ‘You could have been more radical’. But deregulation is not just about scrapping regulation it’s about consolidating and simplifying what exists.”

BRC director-general Stephen Robertson welcomed the changes and said it signalled the right intent, but urged the Government to go further. “Regulatory reform isn’t a numbers game. It’s about reducing the impact.”

Retail jobs drop off

  • Retail employment fell 0.4% in the second quarter of this year, equivalent to 3,100 fewer full-time jobs
  • The trend worsened during the quarter, according to the BRC - Bond Pearce Retail Employment Monitor, falling 0.2% in April, 0.4% in May and 0.7% in June
  • It is the first time the monitor has recorded a decline for three consecutive months
  • Non-food retailers scrapped the most positions
  • A quarter of retailers are planning to reduce staff levels this quarter