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‘At least 50’ Tory MPs would oppose plan to rip up Sunday trading laws, Boris Johnson is warned

The plan to ease Sunday trading laws is aimed at helping struggling retailers get back on their feet. (PA)

3 min read

Boris Johnson’s plan to lift the six-hour cap on Sunday shop opening hours could be heading for trouble amid warnings that at least 50 Tory MPs will vote against them.

The Prime Minister has reportedly been considering a year-long suspension to the trading curbs in a bid to help retailers recover after months of lockdown.

But a letter seen by The Daily Telegraph makes clear the scale of Conservative opposition to the plans — and suggest Mr Johnson’s proposals could face the same fate as those abandoned by former PM David Cameron in 2016.

The letter to the Prime Minister — signed by seven Tory MPs including Fiona Bruce, David Amess and Bob Blackman — says “over 50 MPs, from a range of intakes” have told the authors or their own constituents that they are opposed to the plans.

And the group warns: “We stand squarely behind your ambition to stimulate economic growth and revitalise British high streets, but removing Sunday trading hours will not achieve this.

"It will harm local shops and high streets by displacing trade to large out of town retail parks and supermarkets. Instead the government should review the seven substantive reports developed since 2011, by government departments, industry leading experts, academics and parliamentarians, containing hundreds of recommendations, but none have recommended removing Sunday trading hours."

The current Sunday trading laws were brought in in 1994, and allow smaller shops to open all day in England and Wales while larger stores are limited to a six-hour stint between 10am and 6pm.

The MPs tell the PM that Sunday “represents an important common day of rest, where families and communities can spend time together“ — a respite particularly needed by  retail workers on the Covid-19 frontline.

"We have learnt from the outbreak the value of social connectivity,” they add. 

“As a nation we spent more time with our families, talked to our neighbours, and our communities have come together to help the most vulnerable.

"We should extend these lessons beyond the outbreak and into the fabric of society; keeping Sunday just a little bit special provides an opportunity for communities to come together, and for individuals to pause, reflect and recharge for the working week ahead.”

David Cameron suffered a major Commons defeat in 2016 after he failed to convince 27 of his own parliamentarians to ease Sunday trading laws, despite a last-ditch promise to trial the proposals gradually. 

Labour has already made clear it is opposed to any fresh changes to the Sunday opening restrictions — meaning just 41 Conservative rebels would be needed to scupper the plans this time around.

Former minister David Jones, one of those who have put their name to the letter, told The Telegraph: "There is no substantial evidence to suggest that relaxing Sunday trading hours has any effect on economic growth.

"Our constituents won’t spend more just because the shops are open longer, but trade will be diverted away from the local shops that have kept us all going during the last few months."

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