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23 April 2012

Keep Sunday Special

Keep Sunday Special

While announcing the 2012 budget the Chancellor of the Exchequer slipped in proposals to suspend restrictions on Sunday trading for eight weeks this summer. The government has suggested these changes to maximise business during the Olympics.

The Keep Sunday Special campaign, which has been active in previous attempts to change the law to allow more shops to open for more hours on a Sunday, has launched a campaign to block these changes. Commenting on the proposals for the campaign, spokesman Lauri Moyle said: "It is clear that the only beneficiaries of Sunday trading will be big business, some of whom don't even want the relaxation of Sunday trading because they recognise the detrimental effect this move will have on families and society more broadly."

The government are using the fast-track legislation process to ensure that the laws are changed before the Queen's speech and implemented before the summer. This process is usually reserved for emergency legislation in response to terrorism or natural disasters. The Lords will consider the issue on 24May and the House of Commons will take the bill through all of its stages on 30 May.

Small shops are allowed to open for as long as they like on Sundays, but larger stores are restricted to a six-hour opening window. Staff, other than those only employed on Sundays, cannot be forced to work on Sundays, but many staff are unaware of the opt-out which is available and worry about using it. A survey for Usdaw found only 11 per cent had the confidence to opt out, and 62 per cent stated that they had come under pressure to work on Sundays when they would rather not.

Major business leaders including the chief executive of Sainsbury's have questioned the government's plans. Justin King of Sainsbury's told the Sunday Telegraph: "We don't believe in, have not campaigned for and will not campaign for a general relaxation of the Sunday trading laws. Our customers aren't asking for it. … We're content that Sunday is special and we don't see customer demand for a change in the law." Sir Stuart Rose, the former chairman of Marks and Spencer, said: "If you can't do your shopping in the time already available, what hope is there?"

The proposed changes would remove the last remaining advantage that small corner shops have over large retailers. In the last decade 30,000 small shops have had to close because they can't keep up with the big stores – that's eight shops every day.

The Keep Sunday Special campaign is highlighting the need to reject the government's plans in order to protect relationships and preserve community. They are focusing on the need for children to spend time with their parents for healthy social and moral development, and that adults need time to develop the relationships with partners, family and friends that give them support and wellbeing.

Dave Landrum, director of advocacy for the Evangelical Alliance, commented on the government's plans: "We know that it is often poorer families who end up working on a Sunday, this has a terrible effect on family life. We should not be putting profit before people. As a society we need common time for rest."

The lack of a shared time off work is also referenced by the Keep Sunday Special campaign as a key way in which the proposals would adversely impact community life. If people do not have time off work at the same time it is hard to engage in the activities that help bring communities together such as sport or volunteering.