My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Alistair Darling) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
In November 2005, my predecessor asked DTI officials to look at the impact of relaxing the current restrictions on Sunday shopping hours. At present, large shops over 280 square metres or 3,000 square feet are permitted to open for six continuous hours between 10 am and 6 pm on a Sunday. These shops are not permitted to open on Easter Sunday. The current Sunday trading rules have been in place for many years now and it is important that from time to time we look at whether regulations such as these are still appropriate.
As part of the review, the DTI commissioned an independent economic cost benefit analysis from Indepen Consulting Ltd, which is now available on the DTI website. The headline conclusion of the cost benefit analysis is that the net economic benefit of full liberalisation is worth £20.3 billion over 20 years or £1.4 billion per annum. The report also states that the net benefit of allowing large shops to open on Easter Sunday would be £1.03 billion over 20 years.
At the same time (January 2006 to April 2006) the department has sought a wide range of views on all aspects of this issue. Consumers, religious groups, employees and businesses of all sizes have all given us their views. We received nearly 1,000 responses to the informal consultation. A summary of these responses has been published on the DTI website today and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. We also held a small business focus group in February and a stakeholder conference in May, which was attended by a wide range of interested parties. Write-ups of both these events are available on the DTI website and in the Libraries of both Houses. In addition, we asked the Office for National Statistics to ask some survey questions on our behalf, and the analysis of these data has also been published today.
We considered all aspects of the impact of changes to Sunday trading. It is clear that there is no substantial demand for change to the present regime. Most respondents believe that the current situation strikes the right balance between all the interests involved. After considering all the evidence received, we have concluded that this is not the right time to make any changes to the Sunday trading laws.