The UK's Department of Trade and Industry indicated yesterday (6 July) that no changes will be made to the hours that stores are allowed to open on Sundays.

Sunday trading regulations have been in place for ten years. In the face of pressure from lobbyists, including the likes of Asda and, until recently, Tesco, the department undertook a review of Sunday trading regulations to assess whether they should be abolished.

Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling commented: "As part of our review we commissioned an independent cost benefit analysis and sought a wide range of views on the subject in an informal consultation.

"We received nearly 1,000 responses to the consultation from consumers, religious groups, employees and business, with no substantial demand for change. On that basis, and having considered all the evidence from the review, we have concluded there should be no change to the Sunday trading laws."

Deregulate, the pressure group who spearheaded the campaign for change, expressed disappointment at the Government's decision, which it described as "inconsistent" with the stated aim of reducing the cost of red tape.

David Ramsden of Deregulate said: "The DTI's own cost benefit analysis showed a GBP1.4bn (US$2.58bn) annual contribution to the economy, three independent polls showed that consumers were in support and an independent report by retail analysts Verdict concluded that it was doubtful whether extended Sunday shopping would have a detrimental effect on small shops.

"We will look in detail at the decision and we will continue to make our case to Government. However, we're left with a situation where Sunday trading laws remain inconsistent and confusing."

While large retail chains may be unhappy with the decision, small-scale retailers are satisfied that governmental regulation of Sunday trading will avoid putting an additional strain on their ability to compete with chain stores.

The dominance of large corporations in the retail sector is an issue that has received considerable publicity in the UK of late, with the Competition Commission investigating the sector and vocal proponents of independent retailers bemoaning the death of the UK high street.