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Benedict King - What was the Shops Act?

Regulars | By Benedict King

Sundays were not for shopping

Thanks to the virus, the Government is planning to allow supermarkets to stay open longer on Sundays to make it easier to buy essentials. This would be a relaxation of the Sunday Trading Act, which came into force in England and Wales in 1994. There had never been Sunday-trading restrictions in Scotland, although shops there tended to follow similar practices to shops in England. Northern Ireland had similar rules to England and Wales. Before 1994, England and Wales were governed by the 1950 Shops Act. Generally, this prohibited shops from opening – but with many, bewildering exceptions. You could buy fruit and vegetables, but not if they were canned. You could buy razor blades for medicinal reasons (eg removing corns) but not to shave. You could buy fish and chips from a restaurant, but not from a chippy. It was daft. Even the courts couldn’t understand it. In the early...

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