MP Kevan Jones was toasted by Father Christmas yesterday when his Bill to ban large stores from opening on Christmas Day cleared the Commons.

The Labour MP for Durham North was held aloft by a group of shopworkers dressed in Father Christmas outfits, after his legislation won backing from fellow MPs.

At present, legislation only bans larger stores in England and Wales from opening on December 25 if it happens to fall on a Sunday.

While few larger retailers have opened on Christmas Day in the past, there are concerns that competitive pressure will convince some retailers to change their policies.

The shopworkers' trade union, Usdaw, fears that companies will then force staff to work because not enough people will volunteer.

Mr Jones has said his Bill would help about 2.6 million shopworkers to enjoy Christmas Day with their families and stop the "domino effect" of stores copying each other in opening.

Ten union members met Mr Jones outside Parliament carrying a large banner bearing the slogan: "Usdaw says Thanks for Protecting Christmas Day".

A spokesman said: "This latest development marks an important stage in Usdaw's long-running battle to protect shopworkers from being forced to work on Christmas Day.

"Usdaw is hopeful the legislation will be introduced in time for Christmas this year, allowing staff in the larger stores to spend time with families and friends on this special day."

Few backbenchers achieve the distinction of bringing in their own legislation, because of a lack of parliamentary time.

But, earlier this year, the Government agreed Mr Jones' Bill would help to preserve the special nature of Christmas Day. It now only requires Royal Assent.

Last December, Mr Jones handed Downing Street a petition signed by more than a quarter of a million people, calling for larger stores to close on Christmas Day.