MPs in Worcestershire say they will back proposals to extend Sunday shopping hours tomorrow - refusing to join a Tory rebellion which could see the historic changes killed off.

A big vote is taking place tomorrow about dramatically ripping up Britain's Sunday trading laws to help revitalise high streets.

The vote is sitting on a knife-edge, with up to 50 Conservative MPs believed to be prepared to refuse to back the Government.

Your Worcester News can reveal how MPs in Worcestershire are supporting Chancellor George Osborne's vision, saying they want shops to compete properly with the internet.

It comes despite concern from church leaders in Worcester and the city's Mayor, Councillor Roger Knight, who have already made impassioned pleas to keep Sundays "special".

We can reveal how Councillor Knight, who first voiced his concerns over it last year, has written to Worcester MP Robin Walker in a personal capacity twice this week to try and lobby him to vote it out.

Councillor Knight, who insists he is acting in his personal capacity as a constituent and not as city mayor, has also penned an exclusive article for your Worcester News today spelling out why he feels it is a bad idea.

At the moment shops larger than 3,0000 square feet are restricted to six hours Sunday trading, but the Government wants to allow them to open all day under its Enterprise Bill.

The end decisions in each area will be left for councils to decide.

Mr Walker said: "I'll be voting for it, but I understand the strong arguments for and against.

"With technology changing so quickly I think it's better for these decisions to be made locally."

He said he'd also had representations from retailers who did not want to lose out to online shopping.

West Worcestershire Harriett Baldwin also insisted she supports the Bill, saying: "Sunday is a busy time for fast-growing internet shopping.

"If we want to have thriving high streets in Malvern, Upton, Tenbury Wells and Pershore we ought to be able to give shopkeepers the freedom to serve their customers if they want to."

Mid-Worcestershire MP Nigel Huddleston also reiterated his backing for it today, saying it was overdue.

"I think online shopping trends mean that being able to shop more freely in physical stores at any time - including on Sundays - is inevitable," he said.

"I do believe that final decisions on Sunday opening should be made at a local level and not dictated by Whitehall, so I like the localism element of the proposals with councils making the decision.

"I am also keen that workers are not forced to work on Sundays if they do not want to and am assured that clauses in the bill will prevent such worker exploitation.

"The Government must also continue to support small local shops and ongoing changes in tax, national insurance and investment incentives are designed to help small and medium sized businesses too."

Up to 30 Tory MPs are ready to vote against the Bill while another 20 are tipped to abstain in one of the biggest rebellions since the party won a slim majority at the General Election.

Around 30 Scottish MPs from the SNP are also believed to be considering voting it out alongside Labour, meaning the Government would face defeat.

The SNP is making a decision on it tonight.

We revealed last summer how both Councillor Knight and the assistant Bishop of Worcester, the Reverend Graham Usher, are against any changes.

There is no suggestion of any rift between Councillor Knight and Mr Walker over the matter, with both of them accepting they have different points of view on it.

Worcester's Business Improvement District (BID), which represents city retailers and other businesses, has called for a consultation to be done if it gets through parliament.


"I believe we have gone far enough with extended trading hours, and we need the Government to support and show leadership with regard to keeping Sunday special.

"Do we really need to be able to shop seven days a week?

"I believe it is worth reaching out to keep one day as different from the rest - a day that represents the end of the week, a family day, a day to eat together, a day to be together.

"I realise some of us do have to work, those in places of entertainment, restaurants, health and transportation, but do we need to 'shop the high street' on Sundays?

"We used to have stores opening five-and-a-half days a week and we managed fine, then six days, now six-and-a-half. Why on earth do we need seven day trading?

"If the choice is left to individual councils to decide, I believe that to be an abdication of leadership by central government.

"One council opting to allow full day Sunday trading will put other nearby local councils under pressure to do the same for fear of creating a commercial disadvantage.

"We need one day with a difference, a day to end or indeed start the week - a natural pause as we move unendingly through the months and years.

"Seven day trading will turn each week into a conveyor belt, each day the same, not a single element of punctuation. "Having Sunday special is part of our heritage of the British way of life.

"It's worth preserving a special day as it contributes to our collective psychological health and wellbeing."

* Councillor Knight says the above piece was written in a personal capacity as an individual Worcester resident, not as city mayor.

* What do you think? Email or call 01905 742248.