The government has announced it is to press ahead with the devolution of Sunday trading regulations to local authorities, despite widespread opposition within Westminster and without publishing their response to the public consultation on the matter.

During the second reading of the Enterprise Bill yesterday (Tuesday), business secretary Sajid Javid announced that plans to deregulate Sunday Trading hours will be added to the Bill during committee stage. If passed, this would give local authorities the power to relax Sunday trading restrictions on large stores in England and Wales.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Changing Sunday trading regulations will not help the high street; it would actually damage small high street stores as trade would get diverted to large out of town supermarkets. While ministers talk of increasing high street sales, our survey of local councils shows that extended Sunday hours would be applied to out of town parks, hurting high streets.

“Not a single company has reported in its latest trading update that the current Sunday trading regulations are a barrier to growth in their business, and there is no evidence that extended Sunday opening hours generate any additional sales. Extended Sunday opening hours would in fact it will lead to a net loss of jobs as small stores lose out to large stores.”

During the debate, shadow business minister Kevin Brennan MP stated that the government’s plans to bring Sunday trading changes through at a late stage of the Enterprise Bill was a “gross abuse of power”, with Toby Perkins MP suggesting that it was “entirely the wrong way to legislate”.

Lowman continued: “Two-thirds of the general public support the current Sunday trading laws. We cannot allow this unpopular, unnecessary and damaging legislation to be forced through Parliament when it did not feature in the Conservative manifesto, and when there is such strong opposition from within all parties at Westminster and from a broad coalition of shopworkers, small shops, family groups and churches.”

“The government’s claim that there is a link between the growth of online retailing and the opening hours of shops is simply wrong. Many stores opened for very long hours on Black Friday, only to see more customers stay at home and shop online than in previous years. Shoppers are using the internet to search out lower prices, to save time, and to access a wide range of products. Sunday trading restrictions are not a factor in the growth of on line shopping.”