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Devolution England and Wales

Volume 605: debated on Tuesday 9 February 2016

I am today announcing the outcome of the joint consultation on devolving powers to extend Sunday trading hours to local areas.

The current Sunday trading rules limiting the Sunday opening hours of large shops in England and Wales were established over 20 years ago and have not kept pace with changes in the consumer environment. Most significantly, the rise of the internet enables consumers to shop online 24 hours a day and we need to support our high street stores so that they can compete effectively.

The Government launched the public consultation on 5 August and it closed on 16 September. The majority of respondents from local authorities, business representative organisations and large and medium businesses were in favour of our proposal to devolve decision making on Sunday trading rules to local authorities.

Following this consultation, I propose devolving the power to extend Sunday trading hours to shire district and unitary councils across England and county councils and county borough councils in Wales as well as the Mayor of London, the Mayor of Greater Manchester—when elected—as well as Mayors established through future devolution deals.

The Government consider it right that local leaders take decisions on whether they want to extend Sunday trading. Providing local authorities with the flexibility to target specific areas to be allowed to open for extended hours will let local decision makers take a tailored approach. This is crucial to enabling them to capitalise on or manage their specific circumstances and could support wider Government priorities, for example, allowing a local authority to extend Sunday trading hours on a specific high street in order to increase shopper footfall.

These measures will help our local high street retailers not just to survive but to thrive. Online sales did not even exist when the current legislation was first brought in, but they now account for a significant share of the retail market and continue to grow strongly—15% in 2015.

This change could lead to a significant boost in jobs. It has been estimated that a two-hour extension to Sunday trading in the West End and Knightsbridge alone would lead to the creation of between 1,070 and 2,160 jobs.

I recognise the need to continue to protect those shop workers across England, Scotland and Wales who do not wish to work on Sundays. Therefore, we will strengthen opt-out rights for shop workers in England, Scotland and Wales by introducing a number of key measures. First, we will reduce the notice period for shop workers at large shops to opt out of Sunday working altogether, from the current three months to one month. Secondly, we will introduce a new right enabling shop workers to opt out of working more than their normal Sunday hours, subject to a one month notice period at large shops, and three months at small shops.

We will update the requirement on employers to inform their workers of their rights to opt out, clarifying the wording and including information on where they can find support and advice about their rights. Where an employer does not comply with the requirement, the notice period for the opt-out rights will automatically reduce. Also, where a claim is brought at an employment tribunal and it is found that the employer failed to notify the shop worker of their opt-out rights as required above, the tribunal will be able to award the shop worker a minimum award of two weeks’ pay.

These measures will give shop workers who want to work longer on a Sunday an opportunity to do so, and those that do not will have increased protections.

We know that cities, towns and high streets are changing and the best are adapting to the needs of the 21st-century consumer. Local people want places where they can not only shop but also spend their leisure time, access services and enjoy a vibrant and exciting evening economy. For a growing number of people, that includes Sunday too.

Sunday trading rules are devolved to Scotland and transferred to Northern Ireland. So the measures in relation to Sunday trading hours I propose here will apply in England and Wales only. However, since employment law is reserved in regard to Scotland, existing shop workers’ opt-out rights contained in the Employment Rights Act 1996 extend to England, Wales and Scotland. Therefore, the proposed enhanced shop workers’ rights will apply in England, Wales and Scotland.

I intend to take these measures forward by tabling amendments to the Enterprise Bill.

A copy of the Government response on Sunday trading will be available on and will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.