David Cameron today backed allowing big retailers and supermarkets to open for longer on Sundays, despite opposition from religious leaders and some of his own MPs.
The Prime Minister told the Commons this afternoon it was “time to modernise” the current laws, which restrict larger shops to only serving customers for six hours between 10am and 6pm on Sundays.
Earlier this week, the Church of England claimed extending the hours would “erode” family life, while it has been reported al least 20 Tory MPs could vote against the measure.
Asked about the issue in Prime Minister’s Questions this afternoon, Mr Cameron said the proposals first announced in July would give power to local authorities to decide on opening hours.
He said: “You’ve got these restrictions on opening hours for many stores…someone shouted ‘what about families?’…many stores that families would like to shop in.
“You have to go to these stores and you have to walk around for hours before you’re actually allowed to buy anything.”
He added: “You can shop on Sunday, you can shop anywhere on Sunday, you can do it on the Internet. And I think its time to modernise our approach to give families more choice and create jobs at the same time.”
Changes to Sunday trading laws were announced as part of Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget in July.
It would allow local authorities and elected mayors to extend the hours a shop more than 3,000sq ft in size can open.
The Government is facing criticism from religious leaders over the changes, not just for the policy itself but the fact it could pass into law without being scrutinised by Bishops in the House of Lords.
The law change could be included as an amendment to the Cities Bill, which has already been rubber stamped by the Lords and is now due to be discussed in the Commons.
The Church of England has 26 Bishops in the Lords, including the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishop of London.
At the weekend, a Church of England spokesman said: “We do not believe that there is any strong need for longer Sunday trading hours.
“Extending Sunday trading would erode common leisure time essential for family life and shared activities such as amateur sports, community involvement and religious observance.”
David Burrowes, Tory MP for Enfield Southgate MP, has previously spoken out against the plans, and said: “This wasn’t in the manifesto and it wasn’t in the Queen’s Speech, so we shouldn’t touch it.
“The Government should give it a wide berth.”