Senior Government Ministers have warned Boris Johnson against lifting existing restrictions on Sunday trading.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Chief Whip Mark Spencer, Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg and leader of the Lords Baroness Evans of Bowes Park warned him to expect “strong” opposition if the Government pushes ahead with the plans.
Supporters of the move to allow supermarkets to open for more than six hours on a Sunday claim the changes would only be in place for a year, but critics say it is a “back-door” attempt to introduce them permanently.
The plans form part of the coronavirus recovery Bill. The three Ministers reportedly fear the whole Bill could be derailed because of the Sunday trading clauses, which are expected to be fiercely opposed.
Attempts were last made to change the rules on Sunday trading hours in 2016, but David Cameron’s government were defeated after 27 Tory MPs rebelled.
The Labour Party has already publicly opposed the move. Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy has said she is “not at all convinced that this will actually help to get the economy back on track”.
Recent polling shows that the current rules are supported by 58 per cent of the public. Separate survey results show 91 per cent of shopworkers in large shops also oppose longer Sunday opening hours.
Last week, John Barstow, Chief Executive of shopworkers’ union Usdaw, said: “The Government’s proposals to extend supermarket Sunday trading hours are unnecessary and disrespectful to retail workers – who are key workers – and to Sunday as a day of rest.”
He also suggested that, rather than lifting restrictions, they could be made tighter, by applying them to online deliveries and small shops.
When the plans were mooted, The Christian Institute’s Ciarán Kelly said that “for people from all walks of life, Sunday is special and we need to keep it that way.
“Relaxing Sunday trading laws will put more pressure on people to work on Sundays, harming family life and further interfering with Sunday as a day of rest”.