Tory rebellion supported by SNP as government faces defeat over Sunday trading

ReutersCurrent laws mean large stores and supermarkets over 280 square metres cannot open for more than 6 hours on a Sunday

A spokeswoman for David Cameron said reports on what the Government will do next were "speculation".

The SNP is threatening to foil the government's plans to relax Sunday trading laws in England and Wales.

It is the second time that the SNP, which is the third largest party at Westminster, has forced the government to change tack.

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

Now workers in Scotland who agree to take shifts on a Sunday are often paid an increased hourly rate.

The SNP had said it would vote against the changes amid fears it could drive down Scottish workers' wages. The SNP is said to be convinced this would affect Scottish workers.

"SNP MPs have been in talks with Usdaw, and shop workers across the United Kingdom, who have contacted us about their concerns that these proposals would have resulted in pay cuts to low-paid workers, many of whom are already suffering from George Osborne's cuts to tax credits and other in-work support. However, if they are unwilling to exclude us I have now made it clear that the UK Government should seek the consent of the Scottish Parliament before attempting to impose this ill-thought through legislation in Scotland".

He said respondents to the government's consultation expressed "a great deal of opposition" to the proposals, "because devolving these regulations will not provide help to local businesses, but will create chaos for retailers and shoppers as every local authority will have different Sunday trading hours".

Under the current law, shops that cover more than 3,000 sq ft are not allowed to open for more than six hours on a Sunday. Given there were no guarantees or safeguards from the government that would protect shop workers' pay, we were pledged to oppose their plans and they faced defeat in the Commons. The Sunday Trading Act, which allowed limited opening hours on a Sunday, never applied to Scotland, where retailers have the freedom to open longer hours. Sources noted that the party was seeking to use the weight of 55 Scottish MPs to try to block the liberalising of Sunday trading laws outside Scotland.

The Guardian says that the SNP's decision will be criticised by the government, which will argue that it has recently introduced the principle of English votes for English laws, known as Evel.

The Trade Union Bill contains a range of controversial measures including changes to the way union members fund their union, new restrictions on picketing and higher thresholds for strike ballots that will make strikes near impossible in many key industries.



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