Confusion on Sunday trading 'to worsen'

THE GOVERNMENT will not attempt to enforce Sunday trading restrictions despite a clear ruling from the European Court of Justice that it has a right to do so under EC law, Sir Nicholas Lyell, the Attorney General, said last night.

With most local authorities also unwilling to enforce the 1950 Shops Act, supermarkets, DIY retailers and department stores will open this Sunday even though their arguments were dismissed in peremptory fashion by the European court.

Last night, lawyers said the muddle over Sunday trading could worsen after Christmas when councils that refused to take action could find themselves in court. The confusion would only end when the Government introduced legislation, the lawyers said.

At the European Court of Justice, retailers, spearheaded by the DIY group B&Q, argued that British legislation, which restricts Sunday shopping, fell foul of articles in the Treaty of Rome guaranteeing free trade within the EC.

But, giving judgment yesterday, the court said that EC law 'does not apply' to the issue of Sunday shopping. Hannah Reed, legal adviser to the Keep Sunday Special Campaign, said: 'It is not a European issue. The whole thing has been a smokescreen put up by certain retailers.'

Nevertheless, local authorities will remain 'cautious' about upholding the law, according to Steve Bassam, assistant secretary of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities. 'On the face of it, authorities should now move to enforce the legislation, but without the active support of the Government . . . I think there will be great reluctance to do anything other than to respond to local pressure,' he said.

Last night, it appeared unlikely that support from ministers would be forthcoming. Sir Nicholas said: 'I have considered whether I should also take action to enforce the law but have decided that the public interest does not require intervention at the moment. I shall keep the position under review.'

Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary, has already announced that the House of Commons will be asked to decide whether to tighten or liberalise the law, or maintain the status quo. Mr Clarke said he would prefer deregulation.

Until that legislation comes into force, probably in the summer of 1994, many local authorities will attempt to turn a blind eye to Sunday trading, with only a small minority seeking injunctions through the courts, lawyers believe.

Plymouth council in Devon, said: 'While we have tried to enforce the law fairly stringently, the fact that the Home Secretary has said that traders can do what they want means that we are in a quandry.'

Some retailers, such as B&Q and Asda, were unrepentant, pledging that their stores would remain open on Sundays. Others, such as Sainsbury's, were more cautious, saying that their shops would be open this weekend but that they would review the ruling.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager - Events, Digital, Offline

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager (Events, Digit...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable