So we're off! The Prime Minister yesterday at PMQs fired the starting gun for the campaign to stop Sunday Trading laws being extended to allow big retailers to open for more than six hours. By all accounts the Prime Minister's announcement took both Ministers and backbencher by surprise. The consultation about the policy to devolve and further deregulate Sunday Trading has yet to receive a Government response and, until the Prime Minster intervened, there were no definitive plans to introduce an amendment to the Cities and Devolution Bill.
The Prime Minister says there is "a strong case" for change. The problem though is that the case for change has jumped ahead of the consultation response and gives every impression of being predetermined. The case for change is weak based on an inconclusive report dating back to 2006, whilst there is other evidence from Oxford Economics which found that total trade will not rise if shops are open longer but merely spread to different parts of the week. There are further risks of disinvestment of small stores. The economic basis for the proposals is far from strong.
The Prime Minister also says its time to "give families more choice". Last year the Prime Minister introduced the family test which, in the Government's own words, "sets five questions that all policy or legislation across government needs to address before it can be agreed by ministers".
It seems that the Prime Minister's pre-emptive strike against current Sunday Trading laws has ignored his own family test. When it is published, as has been promised by Ministers, I will be interested to see how one of the family tests will be passed - "What impacts will the policy have on all family members' ability to play a full role in family life, including with respect to parenting and other caring responsibilities?"
Many of my constituents who work in retail already feel pressurised to work more hours on Sundays. A recent survey by Usdaw put the figure at 58%. These workers are generally low paid and often juggling family responsibilities. They will not recognise the Prime Minister's assertion that they will get more choice.
There may well be more choice for big retailers to open for longer, but at what cost? My local independent retailers on the high streets do not want any change and fear that extending hours for the big retailers will be a threat and will diminish the different character of Sundays.
It's not too late for the Government to think again and listen to the public, the high streets businesses, workers and its own family test.
David Burrowes is the Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate