Plans to weaken Sunday trading laws have been revived by the Government, after widespread opposition forced ministers to put the proposals on hold last year.
The Government wants to give local authorities power to control Sunday trading laws, but critics say that family life would be disrupted and workers would face pressure to increase their hours.
The proposals were halted in November after MPs from the Conservatives, Labour, the SNP and the DUP said they would oppose the move. The Christian Institute, the Church of England and others also raised concerns.
Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, said in Parliament on Tuesday that the plans would be brought forward as amendments to the Government’s Enterprise Bill.
He said the Conservatives’ intentions were clear on the issue, and that it was a question of “finding the right vehicle to make those changes”.
But MPs lined up to criticise the plans, while the Church of England and unions warned that families and workers would suffer.
Labour’s Angela Eagle, the Shadow Business Secretary, said the Government was attempting to “bounce” the plans through with “minimum opposition and scrutiny”.
She also pointed out that the proposals had not been part of the Conservatives’ manifesto and had been dramatically dropped last year.
The DUP’s Jim Shannon said he believed the Government could be defeated on the plans again, and highlighted polling which showed opposition to a change.
Toby Perkins, the Labour MP for Chesterfield, said changing the law would not boost revenues: “No more business will be created; it will just be spread over a longer period.”
The Usdaw union said the plans are a “betrayal of shopworkers and all those who regard Sunday as a special day”, while the TUC said the proposals would put further pressure on staff.
The Church of England said an increase in opening hours “will only lead to more people being pressured into spending Sunday apart from their children and families”.
‘No current plans’
Anna Soubry, the junior Government minister on the issue, claimed people who do not wish to work on Sundays would be protected in the changes.
“Sundays will still be special for those who want to keep them special”, she added.
Ahead of last year’s General Election, the Keep Sunday Special campaign received an assurance that the Conservatives had “no current plans to relax the Sunday trading laws”.