UK shopping
The government wanted to hand local councils the power to determine Sunday trading hoursGetty

The Government has been defeated in the House of Commons over plans to relax Sunday trading laws in England and Wales. It is thought 24 Conservatives MPs rebelled over the plans to extend opening hours from six continuous ones currently permitted. SNP MPs also shot down the plans, arguing that relaxed laws in England and Wales would affect workers' rights north of the border. Trade unions and the Church of England were also against the plans.

George Osborne promised in the Budget last year that power would be devolved to councils to decide Sunday trading laws in their areas. But the government backed out of a vote amid fears Labour and the SNP would shoot down the proposal.

John Hannett, leader of USDAW, the shopworkers' trade union, earlier issued a last minute plea for MPs to pull down the shutters on the plan. "The current Sunday trading rules are a fair compromise, which has worked well for over 20 years, and gives everyone a little bit of what they want. Retailers can trade, customers can shop, staff can work; whilst Sunday remains a special day, different to other days, and shopworkers can spend some time with their family."

When can shops open?

The law currently allows small shops in England and Wales to open any day or hour. There are no trading hours restrictions in Scotland.

A small shop is one that measures up to and including 280 square metres. Once shops exceed that measurement the rules are:

  • can open on Sundays but only for 6 consecutive hours between 10am and 6pm
  • must close on Easter Sunday
  • must close on Christmas Day

Who is exempt?

Luckily, not all shops have a limit on their opening hours. Airports and and railway station outlets, service stations and some pharmacies are exempt as well as:

  • farms selling mainly their own produce
  • outlets wholly or mainly selling motor or bicycle supplies and accessories
  • suppliers of goods to aircraft or sea-going vessels on arrival at, or departure from, a port, harbour or airport
  • exhibition stands selling goods

Source: Government