The government has been accused of using “underhand” tactics and an “embarrassing” and outdated defence to push through Sunday trading proposals.
Local authorities are expected to be given power to extend Sunday opening hours in the autumn, following an amendment to the Enterprise Bill which was tabled on Tuesday.
It came as the government published its response to a consultation on the proposal, with ministers citing evidence from Sweden, where, according to Visit Britain, deregulation of Sunday trading has increased turnover by 5%.
“Sweden liberalised in 1972 and we’re in 2016 now, so it’s a poor stat,” said Nisa store owner Paul Cheema.
For the government to use figures from the 1970s to justify its decision is frankly embarrassing
The Association of Convenience Stores’ chief executive James Lowman said: “For the government to use figures from the 1970s to justify its decision is frankly embarrassing. Parliament must reject this amendment being snuck into the late stages of the Enterprise Bill.”
Business minister Sajid Javid first announced the government’s intention to push ahead with the plans during the second reading of the Bill last week.
The consultation received more than 7,000 responses for and against the change. However, it concludes the “strong and diverse response” confirms “our view that decisions on extending Sunday trading hours are best made at a local level”.
MPs opposed to the law change have vowed to keep fighting the government’s decision.
Angela Eagle, shadow first secretary of state and shadow secretary of state for business, innovation and skills, told RN: “It’s not a done deal. There is no demand for this from anyone except the government.
“It has done this to try to make it almost impossible for us to build a campaign so we have got to do it quickly. We have to stop them using these underhand methods to get their way.”
Tory MP David Burrowes said: “The government should still listen to the significant opposition to the unnecessary and unwanted plan. Otherwise, I look forward to leading an unholy cross-party alliance in defeating a measure which is anti-family, anti-small business, and anti-workers.”