Shops and supermarkets could be allowed to open for longer on Sundays in one of the biggest shakeup of trading laws in 20 years.
Chancellor George Osborne will use tomorrow’s Budget to unveil plans to devolve powers to mayors or councils to decide for themselves what the rule over trading hours should be in their areas.
Most large shops over 3,000 square feet are only allowed to open for six hours on Sundays, between 10am and 6pm, whereas small shops are free to open when they choose. These restrictions were temporarily lifted during the Olympics.
In his speech tomorrow, Osborne will say: “Even two decades on from the introduction of the Sunday Trading Act, it is clear that there is still a growing appetite for shopping on a Sunday. There is some evidence that transactions for Sunday shopping are actually growing faster than those for Saturday.
“The rise of online shopping, which people can do round the clock, also means more retailers want to be able to compete by opening for longer at the weekend. But this won’t be right for every area, so I want to devolve the power to make this decision to mayors and local authorities.”
Proposals to relax Sunday trading hours have faced opposition from religious groups wanting to keep Sunday as a sacred day while unions are concerned that more staff would have to work on Sundays.
The Association of Convenience Stores has also condemned the move today as a threat “to the livelihoods of convenience store owners”.
The Adam Smith Institute’s deputy director Sam Bowman welcomed the change: “Brits will be able to shop when they want, where they want. This will only be opposed by nosy moralisers who fret about other people’s consumerism. Some people enjoy shopping – get over it!”