Unlimited shopping could cost 20,000 jobs: Sunday opening survey finds full deregulation worth pounds 18 a year in lower prices to the average household

ADVISERS to the Home Office say allowing all shops to open on Sundays would destroy 20,000 retailing jobs in the long term, but would save the average household pounds 18 on its annual shopping bill.

London Economics, the consultants appointed to predict the impact of proposed changes to Sunday shopping rules, say total deregulation would lead to shop closures but would reduce prices, not raise them, as some retailers have claimed.

Tightening up on Sunday trading, by contrast, would create an extra 20,000 retailing jobs, but would lift the average annual shopping bill by pounds 24 because of higher prices, according to LE's report, published today.

The study provoked a furious response from groups opposed to Sunday opening, including John Lewis Partnership, which called it 'highly slanted'. Groups in favour of deregulation generally welcomed it.

Thirty-eight per cent of shops now open on a Sunday, according to the study, and there is still unsatisfied demand for Sunday shopping, especially from those in full-time employment.

The Government hopes to publish a Bill before the end of the current parliamentary session this summer. It plans to offer MPs the option of total deregulation; partial deregulation; or general prohibition with limited exceptions.

A Home Office spokeswoman said the job losses predicted in the deregulation scenario would be offset by new job gains elsewhere in the economy.

LE analysed four scenarios:

The regime proposed by the Keep Sunday Special ginger group, as reflected in Ray Powell's private member's Bill, which reaches the report stage next week, supported by small retailers, the Usdaw shopworkers' union and some church groups. About 5 per cent of shops would open under this scenario, LE said. Average retail wages would fall by pounds 170 a year.

The Retailers for Shops Act Reform proposal, restricting opening to garden centres, DIY stores, motor accessories, chemists and small convenience stores. This has the backing of Marks & Spencer and Kwik Save. About 17 per cent of shops would open. The annual shopping bill would rise by pounds 16, about 10,000 retail jobs would be created and average shop wages would fall by pounds 125 a year.

The Shopping Hours Reform Council proposal, allowing large shops to open for up to six hours, and small shops to open without restriction. Most of the big supermarket groups including Tesco and Sainsbury support this option. About 47 per cent of shops would open. Shopping bills would fall by pounds 6, retail employment would fall by 5,000 and retail wages would rise by pounds 50.

Full deregulation, the favoured option of Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary. About 63 per cent of shops would open. Average retail wages would rise by pounds 135.

John Lewis, the department stores and Waitrose supermarkets group, said the report, which was based on questionnaires to retailers, was 'highly slanted in its presentation'. Stephen May, a director, said: 'It deliberately takes no account of the quality of life issues at the heart of the debate - effects on employment and levels of service, the demise of the independent retailer, noise on Sundays and the costs of additional public services.'

Nick Hills of KSS said although shopping bills for the mobile might fall under deregulation, they would rise for people unable to reach out-of- town superstores.

Baroness Jay, chairman of the SHRC, said: 'Consumers have shown they like to shop on Sunday. With economists now predicting savings on family shopping bills, consumers will also benefit financially.'

View from City Road, page 30

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