Meanwhile, Wednesday night's Commons vote to allow large stores in England and Wales to trade for six hours has been received with 'deep concern' by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt Rev George Carey, who warned that there could be serious long-term consequences for the nation's spiritual and physical health. It was important that the Sunday Trading Bill's progress through its parliamentary stages should not end in 'virtually complete deregulation by another name', Dr Carey said.
Peter Lloyd, the Home Office minister, insisted that pay rates should remain a matter for negotiation between individual employers and workers. 'We believe that though some larger stores will be able to pay double time, some smaller shops will not.'
Following Wednesday's free votes on the overall shape of the proposed new law, the Bill will now be considered in detail in standing committee. While members will be picked by the Commons committee of selection, convention dictates a government majority. The Government has made it clear that the whip will be imposed for the rest of the Bill's passage. The most fertile ground for rebellion is likely to be the House of Lords, where unsuccessful efforts to amend the Bill in committee are bound to be revived.
Unhappy Tory MPs also pledged to continue their opposition. John Carlisle, MP for Luton North, said: 'Some will find it difficult to vote for the Third Reading of a Bill with which they disagree.' Roger Gale (North Thanet) said that small shops would try to compete but many were likely to go under.
That view was doubted by David Quarmby, joint managing director of the Sainsbury supermarket chain, which already opens a number of its outlets on Sundays. The shops that would take advantage would be out-of-town stores already opening in defiance of the law.
In spite of the absence of Sunday trading laws north of the border there was disquiet in the Church of Scotland over potential 'knock-on' effects from England.
The Rev Andrew McLellan, who is convenor of the Church of Scotland's church and national committee, said: 'Evidence in Scotland over the last 10 years shows increased pressure on low-paid shopworkers, detrimental effects on the environment of those who live near to shopping centres, and particular damage to the health of small businesses.'
Local authorities welcomed the decision to overhaul the law but warned that resources for parking, street cleaning and trading standards could be stretched.
The Association of Chief Police Officers said that deregulation could mean meters, yellow lines and traffic wardens in operation on Sundays if normal trading became common in town centres.
Margaret Maxwell, page 18