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PM keeps Sunday trading laws 'under review' as he faces Tory rebellion

Sky News logo Sky News 22/06/2020 Greg Heffer, political reporter

A plan to extend Sunday opening hours for shops is being kept "under review" by Boris Johnson - after it emerged at least 50 Conservative MPs are preparing to rebel over the proposal.

a group of people standing next to a sign: The government will keep the extension of Sunday trading hours 'under review' © Imagebridge The government will keep the extension of Sunday trading hours 'under review'

The prime minister is considering whether to allow shops to open for longer on Sundays, by relaxing current trading restrictions, in order to help boost the economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

Legislation to suspend Sunday trading laws for a year - to enable shops to open for more than six hours on Sundays - was said to be part of a coronavirus recovery bill to be introduced by the government this week.

Boris Johnson wearing a suit and tie: Boris Johnson has been warned more than 50 Tory MPs are opposed to the plan © Imagebridge Boris Johnson has been warned more than 50 Tory MPs are opposed to the plan

However, a group of Tory MPs have written to Mr Johnson to warn against the move.

In their letter, they said: "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."

They added: "Sunday represents an important common day of rest, where families and communities can spend time together.

"Sunday is an especially important day for the millions of retail key workers that have been on the frontline during the nation's response to the COVID-19 outbreak, feeding the nation and delivering for their local communities."

The MPs also argued that "keeping Sunday just a little bit special provides an opportunity for communities to come together and individuals to pause, reflect and recharge for the working week ahead".

And they cited polling that showed 91% of shop workers do not want longer Sunday trading hours in large stores.

The letter was signed by seven Tory MPs - Fiona Bruce, David Amess, William Wragg, Martin Vickers, David Jones, Andrew Selous and Bob Blackman.

But those seven MPs informed Mr Johnson that more than 50 Conservative MPs in total are "opposed to these plans and have expressed this directly to us or to their constituents".

The Daily Telegraph reported the full list of signatories is being withheld from the prime minister in order to avoid the MPs being pressured by Conservative whips to drop their opposition.

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Labour have claimed the proposal to suspend Sunday trading laws for a year is not part of the coronavirus recovery bill, despite expectations it would be.

Asked if the plan had now been dropped by the government, the prime minister's official spokesman said: "We have said we will keep measures such as extending Sunday trading hours under review as they can support shops with social distancing and allow shoppers to buy food and other items more conveniently."

The Sunday Trading Act of 1994 allows large stores to open for no more than six consecutive hours between 10am and 6pm.

In 2016, former prime minister David Cameron's plan to overhaul Sunday trading laws in England and Wales was dropped after being defeated in the House of Commons following a Tory rebellion.


Video: PM departs Downing St ahead of statement in Commons (ITN )

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