Hewitt to liberalise Sunday shopping laws

Patricia Hewitt, the Trade and Industry Secretary, yesterday unveiled plans to liberalise Sunday trading as part of measures to help retailers.

She told retail executives the Government would scrap a rule forcing stores to apply to their council for permission to change their Sunday trading hours.

"There are 300 registers across the country but no one ever looks at them," she said. "The Sunday trading measure is a prime example of bureaucrats keeping bureaucrats in a job."

She told the British Retail Consortium's annual dinner the Government would press ahead with plans to allow pubs and bars to open up to 24 hours a day.

Ms Hewitt said the Government wanted to work with the sector to boost productivity, and said that Tony DeNunzio, Asda's chief executive, had agreed to chair a new retail strategy group. "We are developing a robust and effective partnership between Government and the retail sector to get the best out of each other," she said.

The BRC's director general, Bill Moyes, said retailers were delighted the Government had realised the "complexity" of the retail industry. "Hopefully Patricia Hewitt has laid the groundwork to allow for meaningful consultation over unnecessary regulation that will avoid both cost and confusion," he said.

The Keep Sunday Special Campaign said it hoped the Government was not sending a message that it did not worry about people working on Sunday. Michael Schluter, its founder, said: "I hope she will make it clear that she is very concerned that shops stick to the agreement on hours that was bashed out in the compromise."

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