Small retailers have reacted angrily to the revelation that David Ramsden, the chairman of pro-Sunday trading lobby group Deregulate, is also a senior representative of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).
As well as campaigning for supermarkets to be allowed to open for longer hours on Sundays, Ramsden is also the FSB's regional treasurer for Wessex and chairman of its South West Policy Unit. Retailers in the area have expressed both surprise and anger at the apparent conflict of interest.
Sarah Tarrant, owner of The Corner Shop in Bournemouth, was disappointed that someone involved with a group purporting to be looking after her interests would be championing a policy that most independents see as detrimental to business.
Sarah said: "The Federation of Small Businesses is supposed to support smaller operators but there is no doubt that a relaxation of Sunday trading laws would definitely harm our sector."
Maurice Martin, who runs Stanpit Wine Merchants in Christchurch, Dorset, said that the Sunday trading law as it stands is a cornerstone of the independents' battle with the big supermarkets, and questioned whether the FSB was really looking after retailers' interests. Meanwhile, Trevor Parkes of Parkes News and Toys in Upton, near Poole, Dorset, said that a representative of the FSB championing the big companies "is just wrong".
The FSB has acknowledged that Ramsden's view on Sunday trading is an issue and it has distanced itself from him on the subject. A spokesman explained: "We are aware of David's calls for complete deregulation of Sunday trading and this is not the view of the FSB.
"He has agreed to remain out of discussions on the matter at a policy level. The FSB believes that the current laws offer a good advantage to small retailers and we welcome David's decision to opt out."