Sunday Trading Laws; Is a change ever gonna come?

This was the issue that famously beat Margaret Thatcher when she tried to liberalise the Sunday Trading laws in 1986 as James Landale reports of that time that;

72 Tory MPs felt so strongly about the issue that they were prepared to do the unthinkable and rebel against their leader. So the Shops Bill was defeated at second reading.

This is a rare event for any piece of legislation but more importantly it was the only time the former prime minister was defeated in the House of Commons.

Why do we often forget this seminal political event? Because on the night of the defeat, American warplanes bombed targets in Tripoli, many of them taking off from British airbases.

This evening her successor, David Cameron is aiming to liberalise the laws giving the powers to councils  in England and Wales the power to decide opening hours in their own areas.

However, it is understood that roughly 20 Tory MPs, along with Labour/SNP MPs are set to vote against the measures with the Liberal Democrats offering a free vote on the issue.  I understand that the DUP and SDLP will also be opposing the bill.

With the rise of online shopping and the steep climb in the number of people working on Sunday, Conservative Ministers argue that the laws need to be modernised. Whilst, critics say it will lead to an abuse of workers rights.



David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs