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MP Ben Gummer says longer Sunday trading hours would allow Ipswich’s retail areas to ‘blossom’

PUBLISHED: 07:02 07 March 2016 | UPDATED: 11:01 08 March 2016

Shopping on the Cornhill in Ipswich town centre.

Shopping on the Cornhill in Ipswich town centre.

Proposals to extend Sunday shopping hours have won the support of Ipswich’s MP and cautious backing from the chief executive of Ipswich Central – but shoppers aren’t so sure.

Changes to Sunday trading laws, which could see stores open from 9am-7pm, are up for debate in Parliament tomorrow.

MPs could vote to give the power to local authorities to decide what Sunday opening hours should be.

But the people of Ipswich remained sceptical yesterday about the town’s appetite for Sunday shopping – and retail workers fear they will spend less time with family if stores choose to extend their hours.

“I really feel, especially on Mother’s Day, that people should not have to be working on a Sunday unless they want to,” said Sunday shopper Diane, who was in town with her partner Russell Haughan.

“I know they won’t be forced to, but sometimes bigger retailers have schemes that employees feel trapped in. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen in Ipswich.”

But her husband, who ran his own company for several years, disagreed with her.

“It’s a modern thing now to have shops open for longer. I think retailers need to adapt,” he said.

The town’s MP Ben Gummer shares a similar view. He said extended opening hours would allow the town’s “shopping districts to blossom”, and could “seriously increase tourism and investment.”

But added: “However, businesses must realise that if this is passed they don’t have to change their hours unless that is prescribed in Ipswich Borough’s proposal.”

The proposals were announced during a recent consultation on Sunday trading laws, where the Government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) announced plans to devolve the powers to district and borough councils.

MPs will debate the issue tomorrow, when the Enterprise Bill gets its third reading in the Commons.

Ipswich shopkeeper Rajesh Menon fears the proposals could be “damaging” to independent retail workers.

“As a shopworker, I am very concerned about how this will affect all the staff in retail and our families,” he said. “Longer Sunday opening will mean we have to work more Sundays, leaving us even less time to spend with family and friends who work in the week, or children who are at school.”

But Ipswich Central’s chief executive Paul Clement said it is “inevitable” that some shops will open longer in a modern society, and that tourists “would benefit” from the plans. But he too raised concerns about the welfare of shopworkers.

“We have to be mindful, though, that these laws may not get passed, and if they do, not all retailers have to comply with the guidelines.”

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere will chair a consultation on Sunday trading if the Bill is passed.

He said: “I can assure you I will not be taking this decision on my own and there will be a full consultation. It’s all about balancing workers’ needs with consumer interests.”

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