Sunday Trading defeat for Cameron

The Conservative government had hoped to pass a bill that would allow councils in England and Wales to determine the opening hours of large shops in their area; however a rebellion of 27 Tory MPs coupled with the SNP vote meant they lost that vote 317-286. This is great evidence for all manner of AS level topics.

Firstly, the perils of a small majority. Whilst the article at the top of the list above looks at all the reasons that such rebellions have been limited (good whips, weak and fragmented opposition, etc) this defeat clearly highlights a problem that PM’s with large majorities have not faced. One of the key rebels who gained much air-time in interviewing about this defeat was David Burrowes.

Equally, it clearly has some importance in the changing nature of the party system in the UK (Unit 1 electoral systems) and the effect this has in Parliament (Unit 2). The role of the SNP here (noting that Scotland do have freedom to trade as they please on Sunday) was key in the defeat as it shored up votes against the Conservatives.

It could also be used for Parliament (Unit 2) to show how the executive is not all powerful, despite fused powers, and how Parliament can check the power of government (although a word to the wise student – a defeat is less uncommon than success so the effectiveness of this check could be questioned). However this could be used to support the power of backbench MPs, something which has been a key target of Parliament since the introduction of most of the Wright Committee reforms. This website ( looks at the rebellions that do occur in Parliament and they do seem to have been on the rise, although this could be attributed to smaller majorities aiding the growth of backbench power – disentangling these two could prove very tricky!

Anytime we have a defeat of the government however, a student could use it to explore the power of the PM (Unit 2) and the factors that influence the volume of power that they have. In this case, despite a very fragmented opposition, they were not able to push this through.

Building on this point, this defeat could also be used to underline how it is PARLIAMENT that lends legitimacy to laws in the UK, and therefore despite it being what the government wanted, the failure to pass it shows that Parliament still holds that legitimacy, especially as, “ministers conceded afterwards the plans would not be resurrected”. (BBC)

Finally, it is worth noting that despite this being a law on English and Welsh Councils, EVEL was not used as the law would have had an effect on Scottish wages. This could be an example to show how the ‘West Lothian Question’ has therefore not been overcome with the addition of EVEL.