Scots could scupper Sunday trading reforms in Commons

Government plans to reform Sunday trading laws in England and Wales looked this morning to be facing defeat in the House of Commons.

The plans, unveiled by Chancellor George Osborne in his Summer Budget back in July, aim to devolve decisions about who can open on Sunday, and for how long, to local authorities; they have been widely condemned by a variety of groups, from trade associations like FWD and ACS through to religious and family groups as well as trades unions and the Labour opposition. Even some big retailers (Sainsbury’s, Waitrose) have voiced their opposition to the plans.

This morning it looked as though the Chancellor’s plans faced defeat after the SNP told the BBC and the Guardian that it had decided to vote against the changes amid fears it could drive down Scottish workers’ wages.

With other opposition MPs expected to join forces with some 20 Tory rebels, the plans will almost certainly struggle to pass.

Ministers are said to be considering whether the proposals might have to be delayed or even dropped.

Although the legislation affects only England and Wales, the SNP has been convinced by shopworkers’ union Usdaw that retailers would pay for the extra hours by cutting wages across the UK – including those of Scottish workers currently being paid premium wages for Sunday work.

Angus Robertson, the SNP’s Westminster leader, said: “SNP MPs could hold the balance of power in the House of Commons on Sunday shopping and we will not undermine shop workers.

“This legislation will impact on workers in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK and no pay safeguards have been offered by the Westminster government.

“The SNP will continue to work with the representatives of shop workers and we will oppose the Tory proposals.”

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