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Plans to allow larger stores to open for longer on Sundays by giving local authorities powers to relax national law should be definitively rejected.

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 a underhand manner. It was bad enough in the coalition government to try and appease the interests of the large shopkeepers by attempting to make this change though the “Red Tape Challenge” and the “Olympic Sundays” relaxation of the law but, worse, such an attempt would fly in the face of what the Keep Sunday Special Campaign was told on April 20th this year in a letter written “on behalf of the Prime Minister” from the Conservatives’ campaign headquarters:

“I can assure you that we have no current plans to relax the Sunday trading laws. We believe that the current system provides a reasonable balance between those who wish to see more opportunity to shop in large stores on a Sunday, and those who would like to see further restrictions.”

In addition to this there are many further reasons why this proposal should be vigorously contested and rejected.

Many recent governments, of all political persuasions, have looked at the possibilities of further deregulation and, often following considerable consultation, rejected plans to further deregulate. This includes the “Red Tape Challenge” exercise of 2011 when the overwhelming majority of those involve in the consultation rejected the idea.

Furthermore, the experience of the Olympic Sundays temporary deregulation was equally unsatisfactory from the government’s point of view. Indeed, the “economic reasons” given by the government at that time as a justification for their action fell flat as it was subsequently shown that the relaxation in Sunday trading hours failed to boost the retail industry. According to the Office of National Statistics the retail market actually fell, and the changes only appeared to shift sales from smaller shops to larger ones. Once again, all hail the mighty supermarkets!

What is at heart in this debate is the whole nature of our national life. This is a national debate and will have to be settled in our national Parliament. There can be no attempt to try and slip this round the side of the legislative process.

Keep Sunday Special believes in having time for family, friends and community. We believe in time to rest and enjoy ourselves. We believe in working hard and living life to the full. We believe in keeping just one day a week a bit special. And we believe there need to be some limits to protect the things that matter most – people who need to relax at the same time as the rest of us, families that need to spend time together especially those with children, communities that need to be preserved, relationships that need protection, local businesses that need to be given a fair chance to survive and thrive, and we need to respect the views of people of faith.

If the government is intent on pressing on with this plan then it must understand that it is in for a fight with individuals and organisations that represent the wider interests of the ordinary working families of this country.  How we live together in our common home is a core issue of national importance and has always been treated as such. A proper consultation and debate must take place and any final decision belongs to Parliament. And Members of Parliament will know that there is no clamor from their constituents to destroy the rhythm of out national life in order to benefit the large storekeepers. 

For more information please contact John 
Ashcroft 07952 357421

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Keep Sunday Special
is a campaign of
Relationships Foundation
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