The Government has been accused of an “embarrassing” use of out-of-date statistics and ‘ignoring’ thousands of businesses to try to push through its Sunday trading plans.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said that the Department for Business was trying to “hoodwink” parliament into accepting extended opening hours in its response to the consultation on Sunday trading.

“These ill thought-out, badly executed and potentially devastating plans must be dropped.”

“The Government’s message on Sunday trading has become so confused that it is barely recognisable,” he said. The Department for Business said that it received more than 7,000 responses to the August consultation.

In its response it noted that “trade unions, religious bodies and a number of small business individuals” voiced concern about the proposals, and that “the majority” of responses from local authorities, large and medium-sized business respondents were in favour of devolving the decision-making power to local authorities.

They also noted that “some supermarkets” felt there weren’t any business benefits for them in extending Sunday trading hours.

An accompanying press release used figures quoting liberalisation of trading hours in Sweden from 1972 to 1989, saying that turnover rose 5%.

NFRN chief executive Paul Baxter appeared on BBC One’s The Big Questions and warned that the policy would close small businesses.

“If this goes ahead, there will be a net loss of more than 3,000 jobs, more people being forced to work longer, more stores closing locally,” he said.

“Ultimately this is a policy about supporting big business over small business; it’s as simple as that. There’s no call for it.”