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Sainsbury’s backs Sunday trading laws

24 August 2012

Ian Nicholson/PA

THE Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, signed a letter to The Sunday Telegraph this week expressing "alarm" at reports that the Government is considering the permanent extension of Sunday trading hours ( News, 17 August).

Emergency legislation has allowed large shops to open all day on Sundays, instead of for six continuous hours, during the Olympics and Paralympics ( News, 23 March).

The letter to The Sunday Telegraph, which was also signed by the General Secretary of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied workers, John Hannett, and the Chief Executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, James Lowman, said that, during the passage of the Sunday Trading Act 2012, the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, gave "an absolute assurance that this is not a precedent" ( News, 4 May).

"Many parliamentarians who oppose any relaxation of the Sunday trading laws allowed this emergency legislation through on the basis of these assurances made on the record in both Houses. Yet, just halfway through the eight-week temporary suspension, those assurances have been called into question."

The letter went on to say that there was "no evidence" that longer opening hours on a Sunday "would boost jobs or growth. . . It would, however, have a detrimental impact on small shops, family life, and the special nature that Sundays still have - a day when the nation can take a collective breather."

A letter from the chief executive of Sainsbury's, Justin King, published alongside the other letter in the newspaper, backs this up. Mr King writes that "a great British compromise is in danger of being lost". Sainsbury's has "never viewed this [extension of Sunday-trading hours] as permanent. Maintaining Sunday's special status has great merit for our customers and our colleagues, and relaxing Sunday trading laws is certainly not a magic answer to economic regeneration.

"The current trading rules play to common sense. Those calling for a permanent change will need to demonstrate a strong economic case for any change to be justified."


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