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More Sunday trading for Olympics

22 March 2012

SUNDAY trading laws will be suspended for eight Sundays from 22 July, to coincide with the Olympic Games, the Chancellor, George Osborne, announced during his Budget speech on Wednesday.

Currently, large shops can open for a maximum of six continuous hours on Sundays, but the Government is keen to profit from the one million people expected to visit the Olympic Stadium this summer.

"We've got the whole world coming to London and the rest of the country for the Olympics, and it would be a great shame . . . if the country had a 'Closed for business' sign on it," Mr Osborne said on BBC1's Andrew Marr show on Sunday.

Emergency legislation, which is expected to be passed by Easter, will relax existing Sunday-trading laws temporarily, but the Chan­cellor said that the Government would "learn lessons" from the experience.

A spokesman for the Church of England said that it would "strongly oppose" any attempts to erode permanently the "special nature of Sunday".

"We believe that, for family stability and community life, as many people as possible should have the possibility of a common day off every week," he said. "The potential detrimental impact on the health of employees, and on small retailers, outweigh any potential benefits of further deregulation."

The shopworkers' union USDAW is "vehemently opposed" to changes to the legislation. The general secretary, John Hannett, said: "Any change would fly totally in the face of the Government's commitment to be family-friendly." There was suspicion that the Government was trying to use the Olympics as "cover for its wider deregulation agenda", he said.

"The proposed changes will not do anything to increase economic growth, as all the evidence suggests that existing spending would not increase but simply be spread over a longer period," the research director of the Keep Sunday Special campaign, John Ashcroft, said.

The Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, described Keep Sunday Special as "an important campaign". He told Andrew Marr: "I actually think that we should be very careful about just breaking the Sunday-trading thing just like that."

Eighty per cent of respondents to a government consultation on regulation last year were opposed to the extension of Sunday trading hours.

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