Large stores in England and Wales will be banned from opening on Christmas Day after a private members bill won parliamentary backing. The Christmas Day (Trading) Bill, now just needs to jump the formal hurdle of Royal Assent to become law. It won cross-party and government backing after being sponsored by Labour MP Kevan Jones.

While few UK stores open on Christmas Day, the bill was designed to meet concerns that increased competition might tempt some to change their approach in future. The bill, which applies to all shops of more than 280 sq m, followed a campaign by shopworkers union USDAW to enshrine Christmas Day closing in law.

Usdaw General Secretary John Hannett said: "This new legislation will be greeted with a huge sigh of relief by millions of retail staff, who in the recent past were worried some retailers were looking to open on December 25. "Our members can now rest assured they will be able to enjoy Christmas Day with their families and friends and take a well-earned rest after the hectic pre-Christmas rush.

The British Retail Consortium pointed out that despite strong competition in the run-up to Christmas, trading on Christmas day in most cases has proven uneconomical for the few retailers who have tried it. It quoted recent figures from the DTI which show more than 90 per cent of retailers have no intention to open, which the BRC said means enforcing a ban on large stores opening "seems unnecessary and a little heavy-handed".

It argued that "retail should be viewed on a level playing field to other businesses such as hotels and restaurants, which have no restrictions". In a separate move, Scotland also is facing a ban on trading for both Christmas day and New Years day, The BRC said that, with a global reputation as the place to be at New Year, a ban on shops opening could damage Scotland's reputation as a tourist and retail destination.

 

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