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London 2012: Royal assent for bill relaxing Sunday trading laws during Olympics and Paralympics

Tuesday, May 1, 2012
3:13 PM

Sunday trading laws will be relaxed for the duration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, despite opposition from a shopworkers’ union.

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A bill to suspend Sunday trading laws for eight Sundays from July 22 to the end of the Paralympic Games on September 9 today received Royal Assent, after it was passed by the House of Commons last night.

It means shops with a floor area of more than 280 square metres will be able stay open for longer than six continual hours on a Sunday.

After the Paralympic Games finish trading restrictions will apply again.

The government has assured workers the relaxation is temporary but Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) says a majority of workers are against suspending the trading laws.

Business minister Mark Prisk said: “The Olympic and Paralympic Games are almost upon us and you can sense the excitement building. This will be a fantastic opportunity to showcase, not just London, but the whole of the country to the rest of the world and provide a boost for the economy, sales and employment.

“Retail workers will keep all their legal protections, such as the right to opt-out of Sunday working, but many will want to take the opportunity to work extra or different hours. I want employers to work with their staff so that we can all make the most of the Olympics.

“I want to make it clear that this is a temporary measure and not a test case for a permanent relaxation of the rules in the future.”

Usdaw said it would be monitoring the situation closely.

Responding to the passing of the bill, Usdaw general secretary John Hannett said: “The government again failed to make a coherent and convincing case for the bill and it became clear during last night’s debate that only a handful of large commercial interests who would prefer a permanent deregulation of Sunday trading backed the temporary suspension.

“The vast majority of shopworkers are against longer Sunday opening hours and they will be bitterly disappointed by the vote. Thousands of our members contacted their MP to ask them to vote against this bill and they will feel let down by the many MPs who failed to recognise the importance of shopworkers having time off with their families.”

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