Osborne Faces Sunday Trading Showdown as SNP Announce Opposition

  • Liberalization threatened by Conservative Party revolt
  • Large shops currently restricted to six hours on Sundays

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is facing defeat over his plan to liberalize the U.K.’s Sunday trading laws after the Scottish National Party said it’d oppose the measure in a vote on Wednesday.

Under the Enterprise Bill, local councils in England and Wales would be given the power to let large stores open longer on a Sunday than the current six-hour limit. The plan is opposed by religious groups who want to keep the day reserved for worship and family time and some labor unions.

The SNP said late on Tuesday it’s opposing the move to protect workers in Scotland. In doing so, the party aligned itself with the main opposition Labour Party and more than 20 Conservative lawmakers who have pledged to vote against the proposal. It would be the first major defeat in the House of Commons for Prime Minister David Cameron since he won a slim majority in the May 2015 election.

“We have had Sunday trading in Scotland for some time and the SNP has never been opposed to it,” the SNP’s economy spokesman, Stewart Hosie, said in a statement. “However, our concerns here are rooted in the knock-on impact to Scottish workers who would be at risk of pay cuts, many of whom are already suffering from George Osborne’s cuts to tax credits and other in work support.”

Slim Majority

Angela Eagle, who speaks for Labour on business affairs, responded to the SNP announcement by urging the government to admit defeat and drop the proposals.

“Defeating the government will be a victory for all of those who support the current arrangements which work well and mean retailers can trade, customers can shop, and shop workers can spend time with their families,” she said.

Cameron’s working majority in Parliament is just 17, which makes him vulnerable to small rebellions by his lawmakers if they ally with opposition parties. More generally, the Tories are split over Europe, with many lawmakers determined to defy him and back a British exit from the European Union in the June 23 referendum.

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