HISTORIC plans to extend Sunday shopping hours are in tatters tonight – after the Government was dramatically defeated in the Commons.

After an evening of fierce debate in parliament MPs have voted by 317 to 286 against ripping up Sunday trading laws, despite a last-ditch attempt by ministers to water down the proposals.

Twenty-six Tory rebels joined the SNP and Labour in blocking any change, despite Planning Minister Brandon Lewis saying relaxing Sunday shopping would revitalise high streets and allow them to compete with the internet.

Instead of a nationwide relaxation, Mr Lewis asked MPs to back a late compromise to select 12 "demographically and economically diverse" towns and cities in the country to be selected as pilots, but failed to convince them.

Despite support from county MPs like Robin Walker, Nigel Huddleston and Harriett Baldwin - all of whom also backed the more ambitious move to apply the changes nationwide before it was watered down – it was lost by a majority of 31 votes.

The outcome followed pleas from church leaders nationwide, including the Assistant Bishop of Worcester, the Reverend Graham Usher and the city's mayor, Councillor Roger Knight, to reject it.

Worcester's Business Improvement District (BID), which represents shops and other city centre firms, said the result would come as a relief to some retailers.

Adrian Field, from the BID, said: "I know the mayor was against it and the Bishop, Robin Walker said he's engaged with businesses about it, as we have been too, and it was not clear cut.

"I do think there will be some sigh of relief from independent retailers, they were the ones most likely to be concerned about it.”

Speaking in the Commons this evening, Mr Lewis said he would have allowed MPs a second vote on relaxing Sunday trading laws after each pilot scheme was evaluated and the findings published one year in, in a bid to force the Enterprise Bill through.

He told MPs "thousands and thousands of jobs" were at stake, saying it would bring a new era of shopping to Britain and allow them to compete much better with the internet.

Mr Walker told your Worcester News he felt the move was worthy of support because of the rise in internet shopping.

"I recognise the strong arguments either side but I can see the benefits in this," he said.

Despite the plea many MPs attacked the legislation, with DUP MP Jim Shannon calling it "an attack on people of faith".

Shops larger than 3,000 square feet are currently restricted to six hours trading on Sundays, with most shut by 4pm.

A YouGov poll of 11,000 adults today showed divided feelings across the nation, with 49 per cent supporting an extension, 33 per cent against it and 19 per cent unsure.

The defeat was a significant one for the Government, particularly as relaxing Sunday trading laws has been a move repeatedly championed by Chancellor George Osborne.

* SPECIAL REPORT: MPs in Worcestershire poised to back historic changes to Sunday shopping laws