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Ministers press ahead with devolution of Sunday trading powers to councils

The Government is to press ahead with plans to devolve to local authorities the power to extend Sunday trading hours.

In their response to a consultation, the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and the Department for Communities and Local Government said the move had been backed by a majority of councils, leading retailers, and business leaders.

However, it admitted that trade unions, religious bodies and a number of small businesses had been against the proposals.

Overall, more than 7,000 responses to the consultation were received.

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The government response said the power to extend Sunday trading rules would be given to shire district and unitary councils across England and county councils and county borough councils in Wales. The Mayors of London and Greater Manchester (when elected) as well as Mayors established through future ‘devolution deals’ will also be allowed to hold the power.

DBIS and the DCLG said the Government would not seek to dictate what the Sunday trading hours should be in individual areas. “On the contrary, the Government believes that it is for local areas to decide whether they wish to extend the opening hours in their areas, or just in specific parts of their area, such as town centres or high streets, reflecting the needs and wishes of their local communities.”

The two departments said there would also be greater freedoms for shop workers in England, Scotland and Wales to ‘opt-out’ of working Sundays if they choose to, “for example because they object on religious grounds or for family reasons”.

The changes will be brought in through amendments to the Enterprise Bill.

Business Minister Anna Soubry said: “Extending Sunday shopping hours has the potential to help businesses and high streets better compete as our shopping habits change.

“The rights of shop workers are key to making these changes work in everyone’s interests. We are protecting those who do not wish to work Sundays, and those who do not want to work more than their normal Sunday working hours.”

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