CHURCH leaders, trade unionists, and politicians have expressed concern over government plans to relax the Sunday-trading laws.
Currently, large stores can open for up to six hours on Sundays, but the Chancellor, George Osborne, used his Budget speech on Wednesday afternoon to announce his plans to devolve responsibility for Sunday-trading laws to directly elected mayors and local authorities.
The move has come in for sharp criticism. The Labour leadership contender Andy Burnham tweeted: “Sundays are only day people who work in shops can bank on some time with their kids. I will oppose this all the way.”
The leader of the shop workers’ union USDAW, John Hannett, said that the Government should “honour the promise of a full consultation and parliamentary process for any proposed changes to the Sunday Trading Act.
“This Act is a Great British compromise, which has worked well for over 20 years and gives everyone a little bit of what they want. Retailers can trade, customers can shop, staff can work; whilst Sunday remains a special day, different to other days, and shop workers can spend some time with their family.
“So it is difficult to see how any changes to the Act would maintain the fair and balanced settlement agreed by all sides.”
A Church of England spokesman said: “A common day of rest is important for family life, for community life, and for personal well-being. Increased Sunday trading will inevitably lead to further erosion of shared leisure time, when a majority of people can count on being able to do things together. It will have an impact on community activities of many kinds, amateur sport, contact across extended families, and religious observance.”
The Christian public-affairs charity Care said that the move would “place even greater strains on our society’s fragile social fabric”. Its CEO, Nola Leach, said: “Family breakdown already costs the Exchequer in the region of £46 billion a year — £34 billion more than the savings the Chancellor wants to make by cutting the welfare budget.”
The Keep Sunday Special campaign says that the move contravenes assurances that it was given by the Prime Minister in April.
“It is hugely disappointing that this Government should be trying yet again to fundamentally alter the balance and harmony of our national life in such an underhand manner,” the campaign group’s research director, John Ashcroft, said.
'A tilt at Sundays' - Leader comment