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