Government defeated over Sunday trading laws shake-up

Sunday trading extensions have failed to get through the legislative process after the SNP and Tory rebels voted down the bill - but the HTA vows to fight on.

The Enterprise Bill was planned to avoid SNP votes by using English Votes for English Laws but has been voted down after EVEL was deemed inapplicable.

The SNP said extensions to Sunday trading in England and Wales would affect Scottish workers and decided to take the opportunity to upset Government plans. Other minor parties joined in to take down the Government bill.

The garden centre industry was set to take £70m more a year if councils had take the chance to use the Bill to extend hours from the limit of six on Sundays, which means many don't open until 11am, missing early food and other retail trade.

The HTA said it will now write to George Osborne to ask if the government will consider an exemption for garden centres, in a similar way to the already existing exemption for farm shops. 

The Bill was defeated in the House of Commons by 317 votes to 286. Ministers had sought to avert a Conservative rebellion by promising to trial the changes in 12 areas and review their impact after a year, but Speaker John Bercow did not allow the amendments to be discussed. Some 26 Tories joined the SNP to rebel.

The Government has now once again shelved extension plans, which have failed to mak progress despite numerous campaigns and bills over 20 years.

Before the debate, the HTA made a push with case studies of Sunday staff in garden centres all around the country. They also sent a packet of sunflower seeds to every MP "with a brief message about staff enjoying working Sundays and how visiting garden centres is a nice family experience".

Reaction included:

HTA horticulture head Raoul Curtis-Machin: "We are obviously very disappointed that the government were defeated on their proposal because it offered a real chance for economic growth for our sector. However, over the course of the recent campaign we have become more and more aware that our sector is unique. HTA evidence has been used time and again by the government to clearly show the benefits and the support for allowing garden centres to trade for longer hours on Sundays and on Easter Sunday. We were frustrated that the most recent devolution proposals ignored Easter Sunday, as this is probably the greatest opportunity for us to increase sales. Following yesterday’s defeat, we shall now write to George Osborne to ask if the government will consider an exemption for garden centres, in a similar way to the already existing exemption for farm shops. We hope that the relationships we have developed with various policymakers and government departments will enable us to have an open discussion about this."

Business minister Sajid Javid said he "respects" those opposed to Sunday trading in principle but criticised the SNP's opposition as "childish and hypocritical". 

Business minister Anna Soubry: "Shameful."

Housing minister Brandon Lewis: "We have lost a huge economic opportunity and the opportunity to create thousands of jobs. Let's be clear, this is the SNP's fault."

Simon Walker, director-general of the Institute of Directors: ""The forces of change cannot allow themselves to be defeated by the stuffed shirts on the green benches." 

The British Council of Shopping Centres: "Highly disappointed".

Asda: "We will continue to look for sensible and positive reform in this area".

BRC's Hele Dickinson: "There are different views across retail over whether the relaxation of Sunday trading hours is a good or a bad thing for retailers and their staff. Of much more importance is the government’s review of the business rates system, which concludes at next week’s Budget."

SNP deputy leader Westminster Stewart Hosie: "The SNP are supporters of Sunday trading – we think in principle it can be a good thing – but we are clear that it should not be happening on the back of often low paid shop workers in Scotland and throughout the UK. Protecting Scottish workers has been paramount to our decision to oppose the Government's plans on Sunday Trading."

USDAW: "Shopworkers will be hugely relieved that MPs saved their Sundays."

Rebel Tory MP David Burrowes: "Sunday is still special for many and the government should ... ensure that there is a proper place for Sundays, for families, for businesses and for workers."

National Federation of SubPostmasters: "We are delighted that the government’s reforms to Sunday trading have been defeated, having supported the campaign against the proposals. Many of our members and high streets in general would have suffered a financial blow if the plans had gone ahead, as it would have been inevitable that some vital Sunday trade was diverted to large out-of-town retailers."

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