Over recent weeks and months we’ve seen just how important retailers are, both in keeping our economy moving and ensuring our shelves are stacked with vital food and supplies. Their value was reflected in the inclusion of retail workers on the Government’s list of essential workers where they were rightly afforded greater support during the Covid-19 crisis.

When we show our support for key workers on the frontline of our national effort to overcome the devastating impact of this crisis, this includes retail staff. But rather than being rewarded by the Government with long sought-after protections against increasing levels of violence and abuse aimed at them as they go about their job, for instance, retail workers are once again faced with the prospect of unwelcome changes to Sunday trading laws.

Alongside unions like USDAW and many retailers themselves, we’ve been clear that whilst supporting the economy as we emerge from this crisis is vital, deregulation of Sunday trading hours is an unnecessary and potentially damaging move.

For those retail workers who have done so much to support us all during the crisis, these changes would put greater pressure on them. Many retailers are still struggling with staffing levels through enforced absences as a result of the necessary measures taken to combat the spread of this disease, and extending opening hours would put even more strain on workers.

Aside from the impact on retail workers, the economic argument behind any changes has yet to be made too. Small shops have suffered a lot through this crisis and our high streets would be hit hardest by these plans putting their future viability in peril. The long-standing arrangements have worked well for years now, and it remains to be seen what benefits would arise from deregulation of trading laws, and who these changes would help.

It’s unlikely any move would be popular, either. Figures from the Association of Convenience Stores suggest 58 per cent of the public support the existing arrangement. The public has seen just what a crucial role retailers and retail workers have played during this crisis, and any decision to place them under further strain would inevitably be met with resistance from the public as well as many in the sector.

The case for supporting our economy and tackling the effects this crisis has had on it is a crucial one, and I support these efforts. But this proposal is unnecessary, unwelcome, and unlikely to provide the boost our economy needs. The government should drop their misguided plans to deregulate trading hours and focus on supporting our high streets where businesses face uncertainty far into the future. And when it comes to retail workers, the Government should be taking this opportunity to support them further for their efforts, not enforce misguided changes that will simply put hard-working retail staff under even greater pressure.

Lucy Powell MP is the Labour and Co-op MP for Manchester Central, and the Shadow Minister for Business and Consumers