PLANS to extend Sunday trading have been revived by the Government through an amendment to the Enterprise Bill, despite the opposition of trade unions and Churches.
The Secretary of State for Business, Sajid Javid, told MPs on Tuesday that the amendment would allow local authorities to decide whether to extend shopping hours in their areas. This would “end the ‘Whitehall knows best’ approach to the regulation of Sunday trading”.
MPs were critical of the move to introduce the changes via the amendment.
“Why on earth did he not put them in the Bill?” the Shadow Business Secretary, Angela Eagle, asked. “Why is he introducing them at this late stage?”
She said that Mr Javid was asking MPs to vote on a Bill that did not yet contain anything on Sunday trading. MPs had not seen the response to last year’s consultation on Sunday trading. “He is expecting us to comment on something that we have not even seen, and that shows contempt for this House,” she said.
Mr Javid argued that there would be “plenty of time for input” in the House of Commons. The Bill has already been passed in the House of Lords.
The Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs Council opposed the proposal to extend trading hours in response to a government consultation last year (News, 23 October).
On Tuesday, the Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, said: “We have not seen any evidence that further liberalisation of Sunday trading will bring any tangible economic benefit.” He warned that the change “will only lead to more people being pressured into spending Sunday apart from their children and families. This can only be damaging to community and family life and erode opportunities for shared time and activity, which is central to human flourishing and the common good.”
It was “disappointing” that parliamentary-time scrutiny of the proposals would be “severely restricted”.
The general secretary of the shopworkers’ union USDAW, John Hannett, said that the amendment was a “betrayal of shopworkers and all those who regard Sunday as a special day”.
Question of the Week: Should churchpeople resist the proposed liberalisation of Sunday trading laws?