Sunday trading change rejected

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The Government has ruled out a change to Sunday trading laws following a major consultation.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) carried out the review looking at whether shops should be allowed to open beyond the current six hours.

But Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling is expected to reject calls from large retail chains in England and Wales to deregulate the system, in an announcement later today.

A DTI spokeswoman refused to confirm the time of any announcement but it is widely expected that Mr Darling will make a statement in the House of Commons later.

The Sunday Trading Act 1994 restricts large shops from opening for more than six continual hours, but places no restriction on small shops. It also prohibits large shops from opening on Easter Sunday.

Large retailers, including Asda, have been calling for the system to be reformed to bring it more into line with opening hours in Scotland, where Sunday opening hours are not regulated.

The DTI consultation period ended in April and took in views from consumer groups, retailers and religious groups.

Those campaigning for deregulation claim it would generate millions in revenue for the UK economy. A spokesman for the My Sunday My Choice campaign said: "For many retailers Sunday is their second busiest day of the week but it is condensed into a very short shopping window.

This can mean busy stores, long queues and a poor availability of products." He said that consumers and shop workers should be offered greater choice about when they were allowed to shop and work.

But campaign groups like Keep Sunday Special want to see the day protected. A statement on the group's website states that they are "greatly encouraged" by reports that the DTI does not plan to liberalise trading laws but added, "we await the official announcement".