Mixed views on relaxing the Sunday trading laws

Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell outside Houses of Parliament SUS-150722-141636001
Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell outside Houses of Parliament SUS-150722-141636001

Caroline Ansell

I have mixed views about whether this really will deliver the benefits that have been suggested.

Currently, and for the last 20 years or so, the law has stated that stores over 3,000 sq ft can open for limited hours – six to be precise. This appears to have worked quite well, although the proposal to relax these laws further is being promoted as an opportunity for local authorities to have ‘greater control of their local economy and improve the wellbeing of local citizens.’

I am not convinced.

Whilst I accept traders would not want a commercial disadvantage if others towns had shops that were open all day and we didn’t - that should not be the only consideration here. There is the potential for a damaging impact on family and community life; the need to have a recognised rest period each week for our health and well-being. There is also a special significance to Sundays for many people of faith.

I take the view that Sundays are special, and a ‘family’ day. I don’t believe this is an ‘old fashioned’ approach, indeed in many ways it’s as important now to have time away from the stresses and strains of ‘normal’ life as it has ever been. There is also the potential pressure to work on Sundays, and with many in retail being among the lowest paid, this can lead to further strains on those workers’ families.

Remember also that, at the present time many small shops under 3,000sq ft can open if they choose.

If they are making the decision to open, they will be further disadvantaged if the big stores are open all day as well. To pile more pressure onto small stores seems unfair; many owners of small businesses cannot easily convert to seven-day trading without the owner working seven days a week themselves.

And, unlike 20 years ago, there is also now the option of shopping for just about anything online, where there is no closing time.

So I don’t believe the case has been made. Last weekend I conducted a straw poll via my e-newsletter, and around 90 per cent endorsed this view. You can take part in the consultation directly here https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/devolving-sunday-trading-rules or if you prefer please contact me on office@carolineansell.co.uk with your views and I will ensure any comments are submitted as part of the consultation.