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Poll shows public would back temporary suspension of Sunday trading curbs as Boris Johnson mulls economic recovery plan

Non-essential retailers are due to reopen from next Monday.

2 min read

Voters would back a temporary easing of Sunday trading laws in a bid to help the retail sector recover from the coronavirus pandemic, a new poll suggests.

A fresh YouGov study found that 48% of the public would support removing the limit on how long shops in England and Wales can open for on Sundays — with just 31% opposed to the changes.

The poll comes after The Times reported this weekend that the six-hour cap on Sunday opening hours could be lifted for a year under Government plans to help retailers recover after months of lockdown.

The proposals are said to have the support of Boris Johnson, his top adviser Dominic Cummings, as well as Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Business Secretary Alok Sharma.

They would form part of a wider package aiming to assist retail and hospitality firms, including an easing of current licensing laws to allow cafés and restaurants to serve food outside without the usual four-week consultation.

Support for the easing of the Sunday trading curbs was highest among Conservative votes, the YouGov poll found, with 53% of those who backed the Tories saying they would be in favour of a year-long change and just 32% opposed.

A plurality of Labour (43%) and Liberal Democrat (44%) were also in favour. 

But Conservative whips will be mindful of angering traditional Tory MPs with any Sunday trading changes. 

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, with Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy telling the BBC this weekend that it would be “wrong” to extend the six-hour limit.

"We've just been applauding our frontline workers, supermarket workers are amongst those," the Labour frontbencher said.

"They are deeply worried about what this all means for them in terms of time with their families.

"This could hit our high streets very hard as well at a time they are really struggling with coronavirus. I just think this is the wrong thing to do."

Non-essential retailers are currently due to reopen from next Monday, provided the Government's conditions for lifting the latest round of lockdown measures have been met.

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