Sunday Trading: St Albans and Harpenden MPs react to reforms defeat

Hitchin & Harpenden MP Peter Lilley in the House of Commons

Hitchin & Harpenden MP Peter Lilley in the House of Commons - Credit: Archant

None of our three local MPs were among the 27 Tories who rebelled against plans to relax Sunday trading laws.

Anne Main, St Albans MP

Anne Main, St Albans MP - Credit: Debbie White/Archant

Harpenden MP Peter Lilley voted with the government on Wednesday (9), as did St Albans MP Anne Main and Oliver Dowden, MP for Hertsmere.

Despite their support, David Cameron suffered a defeat after a rebellion by Tory backbenchers including Heidi Allen, who was briefly a St Albans district councillor before pursuing political ambitions, and now represents South Cambridgeshire.

Anne told the Herts Advertiser: “The government proposals on Sunday trading were about devolving this decision to local councils.

“I believe it’s a sensible idea to take these decisions out of the government’s hands and move them closer to local people.”

However, she admitted, “If these proposals had been about forcing this change nationwide, I certainly would have voted against them.”

Anne said she appreciated that Scotland has a more liberalised Sunday trading arrangement, “which works well for Scotland. This approach can help areas where there is a demand, and can help the tourism industry”.

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But, “What the government put forward was a more flexible approach that would have given councils the freedom to choose, would have allowed zoning in their districts, and would have given more rights to workers.

“I was convinced that the model in Scotland was working well north of the border, which is why I was bewildered to see the SNP voting against these measures. The SNP did not put forward any compelling arguments to disbar councils in other parts of the UK from having this choice.

“I support moves to further devolve decisions closer to local people. Councils are elected by the local people and this is a decision for them, not central government.”

Peter Lilley added: “Personally I believe Sunday should be primarily for worship, family life and recreation. But that should be a matter of personal choice and there need be no conflict between going to church and doing some shopping.”

Pointing out that current Sunday trading rules were established more than 20 years ago, Peter said, “They have not kept pace with the way our world has changed.

“Now, the rise of the internet means shoppers are online 24 hours a day, which is why the Government decided the law needed a rethink.”

Catherine Morris, Christopher Place centre manager, said she ‘was on the fence’ when it came to Sunday trading.

She said that, logistically, it would have proved difficult for retailers to secure staff to help keep stores open for longer hours on a Sunday

Catherine added: “The general consensus is that they are struggling to find enough staff now over the weekends – it’s really tough.”