The Government is facing the prospect of defeat in the Commons over its plans to relax Sunday Trading laws in England and Wales after the Scottish National Party said it would oppose the plans.
George Osborne already faces a major Tory rebellion when the vote takes place in the Commons later. Labour is urging the Government to “admit defeat” as dozens of Conservative backbenchers are expected to oppose the change.
Under the Government’s plans, proposed by the Chancellor last year and contained in Business Secretary Sajid Javid’s Enterprise Bill, local authorities would be given the power to extend Sunday opening hours.
Scotland already has relaxed laws for shop owners wishing to trade on Sundays.
However, the SNP has announced its MPs will vote against similar proposals for England and Wales claiming that the bill fails to protect the premium pay currently received by employees in Scotland.
It was thought the SNP might abstain in the vote after a number of concessions were made by the Government to give employees greater ability to opt-out of working on a Sunday.
But the SNP’s Deputy Leader in the Commons Stuart Hosie said this was not enough. Asked if he was interfering on an English and Welsh matter, Mr Hosie told Sky News: I’m sure people in England would expect the SNP to protect the interests of the people in Scotland.
This is one of those issues where at face value one might say it has no direct bearing. But all the evidence we have is that it would have a very direct and profound bearing on the income levels of many, many people working in Scotland.
A Government source said: It’s disappointing and hypocritical of the SNP to be trying to deny people the freedoms to shop that are already available to those they represent in Scotland.
It’s a particularly extraordinary position for a party that supposedly believes in devolution of powers from Whitehall to be seeking to stand in the way of local leaders in the rest of the UK being able to choose what’s right for their communities and their economies.
Conservative MP David Burrowes is spearheading the rebels attempt to remove the measure from the Bill. The Enfield Southgate MP claimed that a number of ministers were prepared to join the revolt or abstain unless the Government watered down the plans.
He said: “There are 23 Conservatives who have signed up to stop the Government’s plan to deregulate Sunday trading for large shops and more lined up to oppose or abstain including ministers. Government should recognise the strength of opposition for a plan that was not in our manifesto and should at least agree a compromise which restricts deregulation to tourist zones.