A number of concerns have been raised regarding the government’s proposals to change the Sunday Trading Act 1994 in order to devolve Sunday trading rules to local areas. The government’s consultation has recently closed and it has yet to announce its findings.
The current restrictions surrounding the number of hours that large stores can open on Sundays were relaxed for six weeks over the summer of 2012 to coincide with the Olympic Games in London.
There were good and practical reasons for the temporary relaxation of Sunday trading rules during the unique period of the Olympics, representing a huge opportunity for the country and a hope that UK tourism and businesses – both large and small – would benefit from the millions of additional people that visited the UK over that period. Labour MPs sought assurances at that time, however, that this would not lead to a permanent change in the rules.
A poll conducted in February this year found that a large majority of the public support the existing Sunday trading rules. Indeed, before the General Election the Conservative Party claimed that it had no plans to change the current rules on Sunday trading stating that the current rules provided ‘a reasonable balance.’
I know that a number of organisations, such as the shopworkers’ union Usdaw, the Association of Convenience Stores and the ‘Keep Sunday Special’ campaign group have expressed deep concern at the proposed changes to Sunday Trading restrictions.
I hope the government considers the responses to the consultation carefully as well as the concerns raised by trade unions, local councils and business organisations such as the British Retail Consortium and the Federation of Small Businesses.
I am against any change to the law as it stands.