Sunday Trading Laws Set to Change?
The extension to the Sunday Trading Laws, brought in for the duration of the London Olympics, is at the centre of new debate.
The temporary increase of Sunday trading hours, from the normal 6 hours to 8 hours, was introduced to help traders in England and Wales to "maximise the economic benefit" during the Olympics and Paralympics.
Now senior Conservative figures in the Government are thought to be backing a proposal to make the extended Sunday hours permanent in a bid to boost the economy.
However, Business Minister Vince Cable, is said to be opposing the move alongside unions and the Church of England.
Small shops are also concerned about any changes to the six hour law, which applies to stores with over 3,000 square feet (280 square metres) of floor space.
Under the Sunday Trading Act 1994, larger shops may only open for a six hour period between 10am and 6pm. Many stores commonly open from 10am to 4pm. Some types of traders are an exception to this law including garden centres and service stations.
Conservative MP for The Wrekin, Mark Pritchard, has warned that any move could undermine relations between the C of E and the Government. He also added that any u-turn on the temporary nature of the laws would be seen as a "breach of trust".
The PM, David Cameron, is noted as having said:
“On Sunday opening, we said at the time it was a specific thing for the Olympics.”
Community Minister Eric Pickles has been quoted as saying that, whilst keen to respect the religious "day of rest" he still thinks the Government should "look long and hard at the results" of the period of relaxed Sunday Trading Laws, despite Business Minister Norman Lamb declaring:
“I want to make it clear that this is a temporary measure and not a test case for a permanent relaxation of the rules in the future.”
The shop workers’ union Usdaw had opposed original proposals for extended Sunday hours during the games, but came to an agreement, allowing volunteers only to work the extra hours and at premium rates of pay.
In the long run, the union is "vehemently opposed" to a relaxing of the Sunday trading rules, saying that there is apparently no case to answer that it will actually boost the economy with John Hannett, Usdaw’s general secretary, stating:
“The last thing retail needs this summer is increased overheads with little or no return.”