Trade bodies representing thousands of independents have reacted furiously over plans by Asda and Sainsbury to extend their Sunday trading' hours by opening for browsing at 9.30am on Christmas Eve. Association of Convenience Stores chief executive Trevor Dixon called it the thin end of the wedge, while Federation of Wholesale Distributors director general Alan Toft, said he was appalled by the tactics. Toft added: "We are astonished that the government has not stamped on this act of aggression. It's scandalous in the extreme. "It is a cynical manoeuvre and one which the giant superstores know local authorities will be unable to police." Dixon didn't believe the multiples were breaking current legislation. But he said he believed their action was against the spirit of the law. He added: "We have received an assurance from the Home Office that it has no plans to change the current Sunday trading laws, but we remain aware that the multiples are eager to have all Sunday restrictions lifted." Dixon said local authorities must ensure that no money was being taken before or after the permitted Sunday trading hours. He added: "It is ironic that, in the week when the government released a White Paper designed to create rural prosperity, village shops come under threat from multiple bully-boy tactics." Marks & Spencer has been opening for browsing time for the last two or three years, but Tesco was the first of the major food multiples to do so when, in October and early November, it ran a browsing test' in selected stores. A company spokesman described it as a "successful six or seven week trial which proved popular with shoppers". Asda said the Home Office had turned down its request to bring forward its permitted six-hour Sunday trading span. A spokeswoman claimed its legal people had checked the wording of the Sunday Trading Act, which says shoppers can be served' for only six hours on the Sabbath. A Safeway spokeswoman said the company had no plans to follow the Christmas Eve browsing lead, but added: "We are keeping a watching brief and could make a late change." {{NEWS }}