The arguments for and against the relaxation of Sunday Trading laws have ramped up ahead of a key vote on the proposal in the House of Commons today (Wednesday 9th March).
More than 100 Conservative English Council leaders have written to planning minister Brandon Lewis in support of moving powers of Sunday trading to local government control and urging the government to "continue with proposals to localise these decisions and help us deliver what is best for our local communities".
"We want the government to put its trust in councils," they wrote. "We are best placed to make decisions about Sunday trading."
However, at the same time, the Scottish National Party (SNP) has waded in against the proposals, saying they would back Conservative rebels in voting against the relaxation proposals.
Currently more than 20 Conservative MPs are threatening to rebel over the issue.
The SNP's economy spokesperson Stewart Hosie MP said it was against the relaxation of Sunday trading laws because the new bill did not provide adequate provision to ensure workers could not be penalised for not working on Sundays.
“We have had Sunday trading in Scotland for some time and the SNP has never been opposed to it, however our concerns here are rooted in the knock-on impact to Scottish workers who would be at risk of pay cuts - many of whom are already suffering from George Osborne’s cuts to tax credits and other in work support,” Hosie said. She added: “The SNP are supporters of Sunday trading – we think in principle it can be a good thing – but we are clear that it should not be happening on the back of often low paid shop workers in Scotland and throughout the UK.”
Meanwhile, the Labour party is also against the relaxation proposal, with shadow business secretary Angela Eagle calling the plans "pernicious".
"Defeating the government will be a victory for all of those who support the current arrangements which work well and mean retailers can trade, customers can shop, and shop workers can spend time with their families," she said.
The House of Commons is due to vote on the Report Stage of the Enterprise Bill today, with a “gowing prospect of the government being defeated on the biggest proposed shake-up of Sunday trading laws for 20 years,” according to the BBC.
Since 1994, small shops (up to 280 sq m, or 3,000 sq ft in size) in England and Wales can open when they want to on Sundays but larger stores are restricted to six hours between 10am and 18om. Retailers can be fined up to £50,000 if they break the rules.