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Government to push Sunday trading plans again

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The government is to push ahead once again with plans to remove Sunday trading protections, according to BBC sources.

Under new proposals, shops would be able to open for longer hours on a Sunday. Current law requires that stores over 3000sq ft are restricted to six hours of trading.

Although previous plans were dropped in November as a result of strong opposition, ministers reportedly believe that they can "win round many of those who've expressed concern".

Widespread opposition

The proposals have received widespread criticism from a range of people and groups. Christian Concern and other Christian groups have voiced opposition to the plans, as well as the shop-workers’ union USDAW, prominent Conservative backbench MPs such as Fiona Bruce and David Burrowes, and Sainsbury’s chief Mike Coupe.

Many have expressed concern that longer opening hours on a Sunday would be detrimental to family life.

"Family is the building block of society," said Andrea Williams, CEO of Christian Concern.

"Relaxed Sunday trading would decrease the time retail workers can spend with their families. For others, Sunday would just become another day to shop, rather than to enjoy restful, quality time with their loved ones."

According to a survey by USDAW last year, 9 in 10 retail workers are against plans to remove Sunday protections. 

High street stores 'held back'

But ministers believe high street stores are being ‘held back’. Sunday is the busiest day for shopping online, so they feel relaxing trading laws could be popular with shoppers. 

Under the proposals being drawn up by Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis, it will be left up to local councils to decide whether shops can stay open for longer hours on Sundays. 

Longer hours could attract more shoppers to areas that are struggling, he believes.

But others have pointed out that there would be no real benefit to smaller stores, as they are already allowed to trade all day on Sundays under the Sunday Trading Act 1994. 

Adam Swierawski from the Keep Sunday Special initiative said that "the only people who would benefit from this would be the large retailers".

Continued resistance

Andrea Williams that the negative consequences of longer opening hours would far outweigh the benefits. 

"We continue to resist any change in legislation", she said.

"Implementing these proposals would further destabilise family life and remove our God-given shared day of rest. This is of far more importance than shopping and spending, and we have seen that this view is shared by many, from politicians to retail workers.

"We were not created simply to work and strive. A day of rest reminds us that our worth is not determined by our earning potential and allows us to enjoy the fruit of our labour, spending time with those we love."

You can view the Keep Sunday Special website and find out more about the campaign here.

Related News:
Sunday trading plans postponed
Sainsbury's chief executive challenges Sunday trading proposals

Related Coverage:
Longer hours for Sunday trading? (BBC)