Christian MPs lead rebellion against Government on Sunday trading

Christian Conservative MPs are leading a possible rebellion against government plans to liberalise Sunday trading.

David Burrowes MP: I am defending shopworkers and I am defending our high streets

At least 20 Tory MPs, led by Christian MP David Burrowes, are planning to join Labour in opposing changes to Sunday Trading regulations, the Telegraph reported.

Under current legislation, large shops are only allowed to open for six hours on a Sunday. However George Osborne unveiled plans in his Budget to allow local councils to decide the Sunday trading laws for themselves. This would give councils the power to change the regulations to permit large shops to open all day on Sunday.

"It is wrong in principle and wrong in policy – and it was not in our manifesto. It is not something that is needed or wanted," said Burrowes.

"It does not make sense in principle, in practice and does not make good politics. It is anti-family, anti-small business and anti-workers. It sends out the wrong message."

With a majority of only 12, the Conservative government is vulnerable to rebellions and the proposals could be prevented if the Conservative MPs follow through with their rebellion.

However the potential rebels are set to meet with the communities and local government secretary in a private meeting today. Greg Clark MP, who is leading the changes, will try to persuade them to change their mind and vote with the government.

The change in regulations have been slipped in late to the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill in attempt to avoid the House of Lords and therefore the Bishops.

The threat of rebellion comes after the Church of England, which has 26 bishops in the House of Lords, strongly criticised the plans. The mission and public affairs council of the Church of England published a response to the proposals saying they contradicted David Cameron's idea of the Big Society.

"We believe that proposals to extend Sunday shopping hours are directly contradictory to the Government's desire to build more resilient local communities and to encourage social capital to take the place of the state in creating good neighbourhoods," the Church's response read.

"It runs counter to the whole philosophy of The Big Society which the Prime Minister championed.

"We do not believe that a trend toward longer shopping hours will promote the kind of resilient community life which would improve the quality of life for all."

The Church also raised concerns about shop workers being forced to work on Sundays. Protections allowing workers to opt out of Sunday working were included in the 1994 Sunday Trading Act but these "have not proved to be robust," according to the Church's response.

"Shop workers have reported coercion at various levels which has made it hard to resist enforced Sunday working.

"As the industry employs many people, especially women, with families, the loss of family time for shop workers is a considerable concern and further erosion of the time they do have is something we will continue to resist."

The vote is due to happen in the next 10 days but is most likely to come next week, unless there is a Government u-turn.

Clark will try to twist the rebels' arms in today's meeting but time will tell whether it is the Government or the rebels who will face an embarrassing climb down.