PLANS to ban large stores from opening on Christmas Day have been welcomed by trade union leaders.
New legislation will close a loophole in trading regulations which meant that larger stores must only shut if Christmas Day fell on a Sunday.
The new law will ban stores with a floorspace exceeding 280sq metres - the size of a tennis court - from opening on Christmas Day.
It will apply to many retail operations, including supermarkets, DIY stores, department stores and garden centres.
A Government survey of 102 retail firms showed that 92% intended to keep their stores closed on Christmas Day.
However, 19 companies did not rule out Christmas Day opening - saying it would depend on competitive pressures and levels of demand.
The shopworkers' union, Usdaw, has waged a three-year campaign against Christmas Day opening on behalf of its 250,000 mem- bers.
General secretary Sir Bill Connor said: "Usdaw has long argued that shopworkers have the right to spend Christmas Day at home with their families."
A survey of 1,000 shopworkers by Usdaw earlier this year showed that 98% feared staff would be forced to work on December 25 unless a law was brought in to prevent it.
The Government is expected to pass the legislation in the next session of Parliament.