Sunday Trading Proposals - #oursunday

Why we need to protect Sunday.

In the recent summer budget on 8 July the Chancellor stated that:

‘…to give more powers to counties and to our new mayors, we are going to give them the power to set the Sunday trading hours in their areas’[1]

This proposal, cleverly delegated to local authority leaders, will place additional pressure on workers and families on what is still seen as the traditional day of rest, religious observance, worship and a day to spend quality time with family members and close friends.

Whilst we need to take seriously the economic challenges we face Christians on the Left does not believe that society and relationships should be subordinated to economic imperatives. The ordering or our economic life should sustain family life and the common life. We should be supporting Sunday’s long established unique and sacred place, not squeezing it out of existence. We affirm that we can renew the economy without compromising the day of rest and family time. Britain has a well cited productivity issue. However, this will not be solved necessarily by working longer hours.

This issue is a crucial issue for Christians associated with the labour movement to mount a persuasive argument to defend what we cherish – it is a pro-family, pro-faith and pro-worker issue and it is a natural concern for Christians on the Left to speak into.

As the ‘Show Up’ campaign demonstrates, decisions are made by those who show up and this is an ideal opportunity to respond, show up and communicate about the importance of what we hold dear. If you would like further information, see below, for a more detailed briefing.

Also, if you are able, please also consider the following Actions:

  • Write to your MP and Local Authority leader urging them to resist this plan
  • Encourage your local Churches to write to their MPs and Local Authority Leaders and respond to the consultation
  • Please forward this article to believers who are ‘fellow travellers’ and share Christians on the Left’s passion to see Kingdom values permeate every area of our lives
  • Tweet a picture of you on your Sunday, or holding a whiteboard/piece of card etc detailing your Sunday with #oursunday

[1] Official Record, Column 330, 8 July 2015

Christians on the Left Briefing on liberalisation of Sunday Trading

Sunday is still special – let’s keep it that way!

‘Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy, Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy’

Exodus 20 vv8-11

Issue

In the recent summer budget on 8 July the Chancellor stated that:

‘…to give more powers to counties and to our new mayors, we are going to give them the power to set the Sunday trading hours in their areas’[1]

This proposal will initially be taken forward through a Government consultation.[2]  Cleverly delegated to local leaders it will place additional pressure on workers and families on what is still seen as the traditional day of rest, religious observance, worship and day to spend quality time with family members and close friends.

Whilst we need to take seriously the economic challenges we face society and relationships are not subordinated to economic imperatives. The ordering or our economic life should sustain family life and the common life supporting it as sacred and not squeezing it out of existence. We can renew the economy without compromising the day of rest and family time. Britain has a well cited productivity issue. However, this will not be solved necessarily by working longer hours.

This issue is a crucial issue for Christians associated with the labour movement to mount a persuasive argument to defend what we cherish – it is a pro-family, pro-faith and pro-worker issue and it is a natural concern for Christians on the Left to speak into.

Recent History of Sunday Trading policy

Keep Sunday Special was set up in 1985 by Dr. Michael Schluter CBE to oppose plans to introduce Sunday trading in England and Wales.  An attempt by the Conservatives to allow Sunday Trading in 1986 was defeated. The law was opposed by Conservative MPs and Labour MPs and led to the creation of the ‘Keep Sunday Special campaign’ which drew together churches and USDAW.

The Keep Sunday Special campaign was established with support from trade unions, churches, political parties, private businesses, and members of all faiths and of none.

Sunday Trading in England and Wales was not permitted until 1994, this legal bar from trading applied to department stores and supermarkets, but exceptions were made for garden centres, corner shops and chemists.

Large retailers challenges the law that operated in 1994 by simply ignoring it and taking the hit in the fines. The consequence was the Sunday Trading Act 1994 which allowed large shops to operate for a maximum of six hours on a Sunday (between 10am and 6pm). Smaller shops were allowed more discretion to decide their times of trade.

In 2006 the Government considered further altering the permitted trading hours but concluded that there was no consensus for change.

In 2012 Emergency Legislation was passed suspending the 1994 Act for a period of eight weekends to cover the period of the Olympics and Paralympics.

In the summer budget held on 8 July 2015 George Osborne announced that Government will consult on devolving powers to Mayors to counties and Mayors to set local Sunday Trading hours.

Why does Christians on the Left oppose this?

  • Economic growth and enterprise are important but there must be boundaries to protect workers (many female workers), their families and people who wish to use Sunday as a day of rest and worship. Economic growth and paying down the deficit is not contingent on this measure.
  • Opposing the measure is not about competition being set up to attending church. It is more fundamental and reflects a deeply theological disposition about human personhood and how the economy should serve them, not the other way round.
  • There is no political or ethical problem with the devolution dimension to this proposal but in practice local authorities will be caught in a race to the bottom. A Local Authority resisting the measure may see local businesses concerned about losing trade to a neighbouring borough or city
  • The proposals will have a negative impact on smaller retailers. Whilst large companies such as Tesco and Asda will have the employee pool to bring in on the Sundays, smaller retailers will have extra costs imposed by additional part-time hiring (economic) or by working longer themselves (physical) in order to not lose out to these larger corporations.
  • The existing Sunday Trading Act has served us well as a balance of interests; this proposal would further tilt the balance away from the interests of workers, families and churches

 

Comments

John Ashcroft, Keep Sunday Special

"What is at heart in this debate is the whole nature of our national life. This is a national debate and will have to be settled in our national Parliament. There can be no attempt to try and slip this round the side of the legislative process.

"Keep Sunday Special believes in having time for family, friends and community. We believe in time to rest and enjoy ourselves. We believe in working hard and living life to the full. We believe in keeping just one day a week a bit special.

"There need to be some limits to protect the things that matter most –people who need to relax at the same time as the rest of us, families that need to spend time together especially those with children, communities that need to be preserved, relationships that need protection, local businesses that need to be given a fair chance to survive and thrive, and we need to respect the views of people of faith."

TUC

Responding to reports today (Tuesday) that the government is considering an extension of Sunday opening hours for large retailers, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Turning Sunday into another Saturday for major retailers would take precious family time away from shop workers. There is no pressure for this from shoppers and it may push some smaller retailers out of business.”[3]

Labour Party

‘Will the Chancellor undertake to consult on his announcement on Sunday trading? He needs to consult on this fully with the British Retail Consortium, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Association of Convenience Stores, the unions whose members work in these stores and councils’[4]


[1] Official Record, Column 330, 8 July 2015

[2] ‘To ensure that local areas have a greater say over their own economies, the government will consult on devolving powers on Sunday trading to city mayors and local authorities. This will look at allowing mayors or councils to extend Sunday trading for additional hours within parameters that they would determine.’

(p63, Summer Budget 2015) - https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/443232/50325_Summer_Budget_15_Web_Accessible.pdf

[4] Rt Hon Harriet Harman MP, Official Record column 340, 8 July 2015

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