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Sunday Trading

Volume 602: debated on Monday 9 November 2015

5. What assessment his Department has made of the potential effect of extending Sunday trading hours on high streets and market towns. (902051)

The Government believe that there is a strong case for local areas to be able to decide if and where extending Sunday trading should be permitted. It could help some high streets compete with online shopping, for which Sunday is regularly the most popular day.

Is the Secretary of State aware that extending Sunday opening hours by just two hours in London will have a very positive effect on both employment and trade? Will he consider allowing the devolution of Sunday trading hours to the Mayor of London, the other metro mayors, or London councils following the success of such a move during the Olympics 2012?

I am aware of the study to which my hon. Friend refers. Up to 50% of the visitors to the west end are from overseas; they are tourists who are keen to spend their money here, and it is sensible to have arrangements in place that enable them to do so. She is a central London MP, so her residents will also benefit from such a move.

Will the Minister look at the matter again? Extending Sunday trading will have a deleterious effect on family life, as it already does, and will adversely affect many trade unionists who live in market towns and elsewhere, because the protections that are supposedly afforded to workers working on Sundays, or refusing to do so, are not succeeding very well? Will the Minister please look again and decide not to extend Sunday trading?

There is a consultation out on this at the moment, but the proposal in the consultation is to allow local councils to make those decisions. Councils have a wide remit, social as well as economic, to look after the interests of their area. It could be that allowing some areas or particular stores such as garden centres to open on their busiest day—Sunday—is in the interests of everyone in the area.

The Secretary of State says that there is a good case for devolution and deregulation, but is he not jumping the gun when the consultation has yet to be published? It was 12 pages long, and it closed seven weeks ago. We have eight days before day two of the Committee stage when the plan is to amend Sunday trading laws. Are we not going ahead of that consideration of the consultation, and are we not running the risk of aggravating small businesses, shop workers, families, Churches and many others without great material gain?

No, we have not published the response to the consultation yet, but we would not have had a consultation had there not been a proposal from the Government that having this power in the hands of local authorities would be consistent with the devolution that we have practised. We will of course respond to the consultation in due course. I do know that my hon. Friend has sincere and long-held views on this matter, on which of course we will reflect.

The Secretary of State will be aware of the concerns raised by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers and other organisations that there may be implications on the pay and conditions of shop workers from devolving Sunday trading laws. Can he give those workers any reassurances, and has he met USDAW to discuss the matter?

I am very surprised by the hon. Lady’s question, because Sunday trading is completely deregulated in Scotland. As far as I know, it is operating without problem, but if it does give rise to problems, the hon. Lady’s party is the party of Government in Scotland so has the ability to do something about it.

On the contrary, in the Scotland Bill there are no provisions on pay and conditions or on employment law. Specifically on Scotland, will the Secretary of State assure us that there will be no impact on the pay and conditions of Scottish workers as a result of the decision of English local authorities?

We risk jumping the gun in the way that my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) has just said. We have published a consultation proposal. It does not affect Scotland, because it is a devolved power. Of course we will want to ensure that workers have protections so that they are not obliged to work either for the first time on Sundays if they do not wish to, or to be compelled to extend their hours. That would make complete sense in any response to the consultation.