This week’s news and links: Who wants to keep Sunday special?

So here we are in the middle of the eight week  suspension of the Sunday trading laws which will continue until the end of the Paralympics on the 9th of September.  As most of us probably expected, having dropped them temporarily, there are now rumblings within Government from some senior Conservative ministers apparently keen to see them dropped altogether.  Not everyone is pleased about this.

Quite a few people have come out strongly both for and against this move.  Having scoured the papers, I thought it would be good to provide quotes from some of them  to give a flavour of where the debate is at.

Lets start with those in favour:

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles:
“I’m always keen that we respect people’s’ religious beliefs. But I think we   should kind of look long and hard at the results.”

Mark Wallace from the Institute of Directors:
“We know there are people out of work or underemployed who desperately want more opportunities, and we know there is an appetite among consumers to shop during normal hours on Sundays, so it is silly to have a rule that holds both groups back.”

And, umm, that’s about it.  George Osborne is apparently in favour too but has not commented on the record yet.  So lets see who’s against it:

Conservative MP Mark Pritchard:
“This is a major breach of trust between the Government and the many Conservative MPs who only supported the measure because the Government promised the change would be temporary only. A permanent change would harm small traders, workers’ rights, and further damage relations between the Church and the Government.”

Guardian Editorial:
“To make Sunday just like every other day of the week is completely wrong: wrong economically and wrong on the message it would send. Neither trying to boost consumerism nor making people work longer hours is in any way a fitting legacy for the London 2012 Olympic Games.”

John Hannett General Secretary of shopworkers’ Union USDAW, Rt Rev John Pritchard Bishop of Oxford and James Lowman Chief Executive, Association of Convenience Stores:
“We were alarmed to read that Ministers are considering making the   temporary extension of Sunday trading hours permanent. Longer opening hours won’t put more money in the pockets of shoppers. There is no evidence it 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 from the stresses of modern life.”

Vince Cable:
A source close to Mr Cable said: “We gave a commitment that it would be for the Olympics only.”

Shadow Business secretary Chuka Umunna:
“This breaks all the promises made to Parliament, business and to those   working in the retail sector. This is a serious matter not least because many of those who agreed to support the Act did so because they were told it would not be used as a ‘Trojan horse’ for further change.”

Tim Montgomerie Editor of the ConservativeHome:
“Family-friendly government should be looking to maximise the opportunity for parents to spend time with their children and weekends are the best time for that to happen. 1.4 million parents are working regularly through the whole weekend and 2.5 million families are affected by having at least one parent working at some point each weekend. Extended Sunday opening will only increase that number and aggravate the problem.”

Justin King Sainsbury’s Chief Executive:
“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. We will certainly not be calling for change.”

Enough said.  Out of all of these quotes I’ve been most impressed by Justin King’s.  Sainsbury’s would be highly likely to benefit from a change in the trading laws, which would favour larger retailers and yet he is adamantly against any change.

I still believe that the Biblical principle of the Sabbath is still relevant to us all just as much now as it always has been.  Right at the start of Genesis God rested on the seventh day having created the universe.  We can’t all have a day off on Sunday, but we should be having a Sabbath day in one form or another.  It’s good for our health and mental wellbeing.  It gives us time to rest and ought to focus our thoughts towards the worship of the God who created us all.

To have a reduced day of work for retailers demonstrates that rest is important for our society.  Most people including business leaders can see the value in this.  I hope and pray that Government ministers are sensible enough work this out too before they make any regretable decisions.

The links to the quotes can be found in these articles:

Telegraph – Extended Sunday trading hours ‘major breach of trust’

Conservative Home – Relaxation of Sunday trading will upset churchgoers, family campaigners and a good number of Tory MPs

Telegraph – Labour’s Chuka Umunna says relaxing Sunday trading laws breaches undertaking to Parliament

Guardian – Sunday trading: the shopping Olympics

BBC – Sunday trading hours debate renewed by Olympics

Telegraph – Preserve Sunday as a special work-free day

You might also want to check out the Keep Sunday Special website, which has regular updates on Sunday trading news.

Categories: Banking & capitalism, Economy, Government

Tags: , , , , , , ,

8 replies

  1. You say, “Sainsbury’s would be highly likely to benefit from a change in the trading laws” — but that, I think, depends on what you mean by “benefit” … I’m guessing you’re thinking of cash in the tills, and no doubt there would be some more rung through on a Sunday if opening hours were extended; but at what cost? That, as Justin’s comments highlight, of risking alienating/upsetting staff and customers, a cost which Justin evidently thinks doesn’t stack up; and, on balance, no doubt some reduction of the amount spent on Saturdays and at other times: opening stores for longer won’t increase the amount of money people have to spend; it would simply give us more time in which to spend it … the same amount of money, just spread a little more thinly, with additional staff costs and other associated expenses on top…

    So would Sainsbury’s benefit? Justin evidently thinks not, or at least not significantly enough to make it worthwhile. I’m inclined to agree.

  2. It is the height of political folly, and so commonplace, for Government to go back on a pledge. Vince Cable is right. A commitment should be just what it says. Sometimes adverse developments can make the best of intentions impossible to implement, but this issue has no such excuses. If it happens, small-time shopkeepers will surely suffer; the Coalition will lose further respect, while Sunday edges ever closer to any other day of the week.

    Gillan is right about the relevance of the seventh day, established at the creation by God, who created us. Few may believe in it today, but this makes it no less true. The fact remains that God knew what was best for the man and woman He had made. Irrespective of whether a person is a Christian or not, I believe that anyone who runs with any part of what Jesus preached, even unknowingly, and observes it in life, will be the better for it. The Sabbath was declared a work-free day and Jesus said it was made for man – for his own good (Mark 2:27) and not a day designed for its own sake. Of course we cannot all be off at once, but those who choose to keep Sunday holy should remain free to do so, as far as is possible.

    Apparently, at one time, China experimented with extending the working week in an attempt to increase productivity. It was a total failure. The seven-day week, for which man was designed, was quickly restored!

    • Not so sure about man (or woman, for that matter) being designed for a seven day week: as a certain outrageous Rabbi once observed, the Sabbath was made for us, not us for the Sabbath… then another equally outrageous chap came along and commented that we shouldn’t let people make rules about Sabbaths, new moon festivals and so forth. Radical thinkers, these old Jews…

    • Hi, this is very interesting to me how the Sabbath is automatically assumed to be Sunday now. It was always the 7th day of the week , not the 1st day of the week. God made the 7th day Holy to benefit man from Creation onward. So when the talks on this topic regard Sunday being made a day of rest, the authorities really do need to look at what day they mean is the Sabbath of God. It is and always has been the 7th day , known today as Saturday.

  3. I’m not sure about Sunday trading laws. Romans 14:5 says that observing the Sabbath is a conscience issue and that Christians shouldn’t impose their convictions on others in the church. Why, therefore, should we impose our convictions regarding the Sabbath on non-Christian businesses and consumers?

    • Agree wholeheartedly; it is a question of freedom, however, and those who would prefer to not work on the Sabbath really shouldn’t be obliged to work on Saturdays. Sundays are another matter entirely…


  1. Sunday Observance | Law & Religion UK
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