Morrisons CEO Dalton Philips and his Asda counterpart Andy Clarke have written to business minister Michael Fallon to call for the extension of Sunday trading hours this Christmas.

Philips (pictured) said that although he was “very supportive” of Sunday trading hours, it would be “ridiculous” to enforce the rule on December 23 this year, when he expects 2.5 million shoppers to descend on the company’s stores.

“David Cameron has talked about us being in the economic equivalent of a war,” said Philips. “This is a case where we need a relaxation of the rules.

“I think we’ve got to be less puritanical about this. We’re only asking for two or three extra hours.”

Morrisons will be opening its stores for browsing an hour early on the 23rd - shoppers can fill their trolleys but will not be allowed to pay for items until the stores have officially opened for its six hours of trading.

For eight weeks before, during and after the Olympic Games this summer, supermarkets were allowed to extend their trading hours on Sundays. “If we can open for the Olympics, we can open on the 23rd”, said Philips.