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More than 100 council leaders in England have given their backing to government plans to give local councils the power to change Sunday trading house.

It is the biggest reform of Sunday trading laws in over 20 years. Currently, smaller shops in England and Wales are free to choose their opening hours on a Sunday, but larger stores are limited to six hours trading between 10:00 and 18:00, with a potential fine of £50,000 for breaking the laws.

In a letter supporting the bill, the 102 Conservative councillors called on the government to "continue with proposals to localise these decisions and help us deliver what is best for our local communities".

"We want the government to put its trust in councils... we are best placed to make decisions about Sunday trading."

But the changes are far from certain to be approved in the Commons. Labour and the SNP have said they will oppose the plans, even though the changes would not affect Scotland. And around 20 Conservative MPs are expected to vote against it. Critics have said there is no real economic benefit to the move, and suggested Sunday should be 'kept special' for family time and religious observance.

MP David Burrowes is one of the 21 Conservatives who have backed an amendment to restrict the changes to tourism areas. He said: "With the government looking down the barrel of a defeat, they have to listen hard to the concerns, particularly of Conservatives.

"Now I am confident that the government are very much listening to ways to negotiate this very difficult situation they have brought upon themselves."