Government defeated over Sunday trading changes

Northallerton high street.

Northallerton high street.

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SHOPS will not be able to open for longer on a Sunday after the Government suffered an embarassing defeat despite an 11th hour attempt to soften the plan.

Religious and family reasons, aswell as small shop keepers rights were cited again and again by Tory rebels backed by Labour and the SNP who campaigned vigorously for the reforms in the Enterprise Bill to be thrown out.

Cheers rang out in the House of Commons as 317 MPs voted in favour of an amendment that effectively deleted the proposals, to 286 against.

Minister Brandown Lewis was told he should join the ‘union of barrel scrapers’ by one MP for asking members to vote through the plans on the verbal promise it would only be a pilot in 12 areas for the first year.

That plea followed Speaker John Bercow turning down the Conservatives hastily tabled last-minute amendment that would have made the pilot proposal a concrete part of the bill.

David Cameron too was called into question for his promise not to unpick Sunday trading laws in a speech he gave before the General Election, which was quoted by Conservative MP David Burrowes.

Leading the Tory opposition to the plan to let larger stores open for longer and give local councils control over hours, Mr Burrowes said the proposition had clearly not been in the party’s manifesto.

As the Yorkshire Post went to press it was understood that 26 Conservative MPs rebelled and backed his amendment.

Shadow business secretary Angela Eagle said Chancellor George Osborne should now abandon his ‘tawdry plan’ that would have affected millions of workers.

However former retail manager and MP for Morley and Outwood Andrea Jenkyns is adamant that shopping needs to keep pace with a 24/7 digital world.

The chair of the Commons working group on the high street, said: “I’m shocked more than 20 years later we are still having this debate.

“It should be a level playing field for all retailers.”

More than 30 MPs took to the floor of the House of Commons during the debate, and the issue has evoked an emotional response from politicians, shop-keepers and clergy from around the country.

The Keep Sunday Special campaign was backed by the Church of England, the Association of Convenience Stores and shop workers union Usdaw.

The hotly contested issue has dogged the Conservative party for more than two decades, with the party firmly split on the issue as traditional values clash with the drive to satisfy market demand.

The current opening hours were introduced in 1994 by John Major’s Government and restrict larger stores opening for six hours.

Angus Robertson, leader of the SNP in Westminstser, claimed the defeat as a major triumph for his party.

He denied blocking the Government’s plan was a political stunt and contradictory to the SNP’s stance on local communities being at the heart of decision making.

He said: “Our constituents [would] be impacted were this bill were to go through without safeguards on premium pay.

“Is that political? Yes it is. It’s called representing your constituents in a democracy.

“Am I ashamed of that? No I am not, it’s my job. I am elected to come here and represent the interests of my constituents and that’s exactly what I am doing.”

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