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Commercial Law: Sunday-trading laws may be suspended for Olympics

The Government has revealed that it will suspend Sunday-trading laws during the Olympic Games this summer. The move had been widely anticipated, but it was thought the Government had left it too late to make the necessary legislative changes in time for the start of the Games in July.

The announcement is expected in chancellor George Osborne's budget announcement this week, with emergency legislation expected to be enacted as soon as Easter.

Under the present trading laws, stores larger than 280m2 are only permitted to open for six hours each Sunday. The law is included in part of the Sunday Trading Act 1994, and restricts those larger shops to opening between the hours of ten in the morning and six in the evening.

The driver for the suspension of the Sunday-trading laws is the influx of visitors to the UK for the Olympic Games. The Government is hoping that hundreds of thousands of visitors will take advantage of late-night shopping to boost sluggish retail figures.

Opponents of the plans including the group 'Keep Sunday Special' and leaders of the main church faiths, argue that the plans are unnecessary and jeopardise the sanctity of Sunday as a day for family and friends. The Sunday-trading law also includes specific measures to protect the rights of shop workers who do not wish to work on Sundays. The suspension would also affect these rights.

The proposals would be for a temporary ban to cover the three Sundays over the Olympics. If successful, however, it is thought that the Treasury would consider a more permanent move.

Tory MP Nadine Dorries opposes the move, claiming that it is part of a wider anti-Christian agenda in politics.

"Is the Coalition Government secretly implementing an anti-Christian agenda and if so who is driving it, Cameron and Osborne or the LDs?" she said on Twitter.

Smaller convenience stores, who benefit by being able to open longer on Sundays, also oppose the move, fearing it will drive consumers to larger outlets offering more choice and better value.

The association of Convenience Stores chief executive is James Lowman.

"Any relaxation, even just for London during the Olympics, would erode our existing, popular, Sunday-trading rules," he said.

"Retailers will benefit greatly from the Olympics and they do not need a few extra hours on three additional Sundays to do it," he added.

Related links:

Read more on the story (BBC)

Sunday trading requirements for large shops (FindLaw)