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09 July 2015

Keep Sunday Special campaign steps up in light of government consultation

Keep Sunday Special campaign steps up in light of government consultation

As part of the budget speech, George Osborne has confirmed that there will be a consolation on extending shop opening hours above the six hour current limit on Sundays.

This announcement comes after a letter from Prime Minister David Cameron to Michael Trend of the Keep Sunday Special campaign, during the election campaign, promised that the government had "no current plans to relax the Sunday trading laws".

The consultation may devolve power over Sunday trading laws to elected mayors or local authorities. Current Sunday trading laws allow all larger stores to open for no more than six hours between 10am and 6pm. Smaller shops can open all day.

John Ashcroft from Keep Sunday Special campaign said the move is "trying yet again to fundamentally alter the balance and harmony of our national life in such a underhand manner".

But ahead of the summer budget, George Osborne said: "The rise of online shopping, which people can do round the clock, also means more retailers want to be able to compete by opening for longer at the weekend.

"But this won't be right for every area, so I want to devolve the power to make this decision to mayors and local authorities."

The plans have provoked criticism from trade unions and three of Labour's leadership candidates.

Andy Burnham, the frontrunner in the leadership race, tweeted that Sunday was the only day people who worked in shops could bank on some time with their kids.

"I will oppose this all the way," he said.

Another leadership contender, Liz Kendall, said the Sunday Trading Act worked: "Retailers can trade, customers can shop, shop workers can spend time with their families, why change it?"

The Evangelical Alliance will be responding to the consultation and urges others to do so, too.

There is little evidence that people have been calling on their MPs to extend the Sunday hours and keeping the current limit on Sunday trading hours will promote family values.

"Plans to allow larger stores to open for longer on Sundays by giving local authorities powers to relax national law should be definitively rejected," says Michael Trend, spokesman for Keep Sunday Special campaign.

"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."

He believes that this flies in the face of the assurance the Prime Minister's spokesperson gave the campaign on 20 April that Sunday trading laws would not be changed.

"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," reads the letter.

John Ashcroft of Keep Sunday Special commented: "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.

"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."