House of Commons Library

Shop opening hours and Sunday trading

Published Tuesday, April 19, 2016

This Commons' briefing paper sets out the current legal position in respect of shop opening hours, including Sunday trading. It considers the Government’s consultation, and looks in detail at the Government's recent attempts to devolve Sunday trading rules to local areas using the Enterprise Bill. Finally, this paper provides a summary of the views of interested parties and useful Sunday trading statistics.

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In respect of weekday and Saturday trading, all shops are free to remain open for as long as they wish. The Sunday Trading Act 1994 (the STA 1994) regulates Sunday shop opening hours in England and Wales. There are no equivalent restrictions to the STA 1994 in Scotland, but there are similar restrictions in Northern Ireland.

Currently, under the STA 1994, a distinction is made between large and small shops in respect of permissible trading hours. Large shops (over 280 square metres or 3,000 square feet in size) may open Monday to Saturday without restrictions. On Sundays, opening is restricted to 6 continual hours between the period 10am and 6pm. All large shops must close on Easter Sunday and on Christmas Day.

In contrast, there are no opening restrictions for small shops (under 280 square metres or 3,000 square feet). In effect, a small shop could open twenty-four hours a day, every day of the year, including Easter Sunday and Christmas Day, if the owner so wished.

On 5 August 2015, the Government published a consultation paper on whether Sunday trading rules should be devolved as part of its localism agenda in order to give local areas greater control of their local economy. The move followed an announcement by George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his summer Budget in July 2015.

The consultation ended on 16 September 2015 and the Government published its response on 9 February 2015. It announced that it would take forward its proposals by tabling amendments to the Enterprise Bill [HL]. This Bill had passed to the Commons having completed all its stages in the House of Lords. In fact, an earlier announcement to this effect had been made by Sajid Javid, Secretary of State (BIS), on 2 February 2016, during Second Reading of the Bill in the Commons.

On 9 February 2016, Anna Soubry tabled new clause 21. In a nutshell, the new clause sought to amend the STA 1994, giving powers to ‘Sunday trading authorities’ to extend opening hours for large shops. The extended hours to apply to the whole or part of the local area. New clause 21 also sought to introduce new Schedule 1 to the Enterprise Bill containing amendments to the Employment Rights Act 1996 and the Employment Act 2002 in relation to Sunday working.

New clause 21 (and Schedule 1) was considered in Public Bill Committee on 25 February 2016 (during the 7th and 8th sittings). After a lengthy debate, the new clause was agreed and added to the Bill. On Report, David Burrowes MP tabled an amendment, supported by 70 Members from across the House. The amendment sought to delete sections 1-4 of new clause 21, leaving Section 5 which relates to the new schedule of employment rights on the Sunday opt out. The amendment was passed by a majority of 31 votes. The Bill has now passed to its next stage, Lords consideration of Commons’ amendments (‘ping pong’).

This Commons briefing paper sets out the current legal position in respect of shop opening hours. It considers the Government’s consultation, and looks in detail at the Government’s recent attempts to devolve Sunday trading rules to local areas using the Enterprise Bill. Finally, this paper provides a summary of the views of interested parties and useful Sunday trading statistics.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Commons Briefing papers SN05522

Authors: Lorraine Conway; Chris Rhodes; Mark Sandford

Topic: Consumers

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