Sunday trading debate in the House of Commons today

It has been a lively day in the House of Commons today, with the main focus being the Enterprise Bill (Lords) at Report Stage.

I have received representations from Christian groups, shop-workers and their unions, smaller shopkeepers and the general public against this part of the Bill. The Bill as it currently stands would allow local authorities the decision to zone areas for extended trading as they see fit. In the spirit of localism this must be seen as the right way to go; the decision should not be with national government but with local communities who know their areas. I remain sceptical at the proposal, and remain unconvinced of the need for additional trading hours, however it must be recognised that garden centres see little point in the restrictive hours, as the employees are there in any event tending the growing stock and re-stocking. We additionally use restaurants and cinemas on a Sunday.

Internet retailers (Amazon and the like) experience peak sales on a Sunday and are outside of the Sunday Trading Act hours restrictions and so workers within those businesses are already working on a Sunday. I can understand the Government’s position on their proposals, in an attempt to get shoppers back onto our High Streets, many of which are mere shadows of what they used to be (Ramsgate and Northdown Road, Cliftonville are good examples) and if local approval were given I would push for restrictive zones to encourage life back onto these High Streets alone and would not support any extension of Sunday trading at Westwood Cross for instance.

Assurances were given in the House by Brandon Lewis MP, Minister of State for Housing and Planning that an appropriate amendment will be added to the Bill at the final Lords’ stage to allow 12 pilot schemes that are nominated locally over a 12 month period. On the basis of assurances given I supported the government and opposed the amendment proposed by some of my colleagues.

In the event the amendment was carried by a good majority and the government was defeated on the issue, so all in all a result that I hope will be welcomed by all opposed to this measure.