Only last week we were worrying about the threat to small businesses if the Chancellor’s plans to relax Sunday trading laws were to go ahead. But it seems that we can sleep easy again as the idea has been put on hold, at least for now. Cue a collective sigh of relief from small shopkeepers, and possibly from shopworkers in large stores too. And in the background, we can hear an exasperated tut from large retailers and a grunt of frustration from those consumers who would actually like to be able to do their shopping 24/7.
Why the U-turn?
It’s not so much a U-turn in policy as an admission of the political reality. Do you remember we said that the planned vote had been delayed to give ministers more time to win MPs’ support? Well, it would seem that they have given up on that battle. The SNP was expected to vote against the changes, and when you add their votes to other opposition MPs (not to mention some naughty Tory rebels who refused to toe the line), the plans would have struggled to get through.
The SNP are dancing in the aisles as they feared the new laws could drive down Scottish workers’ wages (even though the legislation would only affect England and Wales). They claim that retailers would pay for the extra hours by cutting wages across the UK, including Scottish workers. However, the whole question of Scottish MPs voting on non-Scottish matters is controversial, as we know, and it wouldn’t be unduly cynical to suggest that this issue has political significance which is wider than Sunday trading laws.
Here at Simplify the Law we try to remain aloof from high politics, but sometimes we can’t escape it. We’d have to be off our trolley to seriously think this is the last we’ve heard of the issue. The Government is currently analysing the result of the consultation that took place in the summer. But it looks like they will now also need to do a deal with the SNP on premium Sunday pay rates for Scottish workers if they have any chance of the proposals progressing any time soon.
For the time being, though, our friends in the small shops don’t have to spend every waking (and sleeping) hour in the shadow of the retail giants.
Till we meet again
(See what we did there?)
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