London 2012: Sunday trading law suspension bid for Olympics

Olympic Stadium Ministers hope people visiting the UK for the Games will take advantage of a Sunday trading law hiatus

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Sunday trading laws will be suspended by the government on eight weekends from 22 July during the Olympics and Paralympics.

In his Budget, George Osborne proposed emergency legislation so large shops in England and Wales can trade for more than six hours.

"When millions of visitors come to Britain... we don't want to hang up a closed for business sign," he told MPs.

But campaign group Keep Sunday Special called the plan "profoundly worrying".

And shopworkers' union Usdaw warned its members "vehemently opposed" the idea.

General secretary John Hannett said: "The government's own consultation just last year showed there is no widespread support from either retailers or the general public for change.

"Deregulation would have a very detrimental impact on the lives of millions of shopworkers.

"Shopworkers are entitled for their views to be heard before any decisions of this importance are made."

Analysts, though, predict the move could lead shoppers to spend £200 million more, with shopping comparison website Kelkoo saying almost half of the extra money would be spent in London.

'Without debate'

But ministers hope to see the proposal passed by Easter.

Speaking to BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Mr Osborne said: "We've got the whole world coming to London and the rest of the country for the Olympics.

"It would be a great shame - particularly when some of the big Olympic events are on Sunday - if the country had a closed for business sign on it."

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls said there should be proper consultation and careful consideration before implementing change.

London 2012 - One extraordinary year

London 2012 One extraordinary year graphic

"George's people have told the newspapers this is an experiment to change it for the future, breaking up centuries of tradition," he said.

Church leaders acknowledged the Olympics would be a special time, but said they were likely to oppose the move.

Rev Sally Hitchiner, of St John's Church in Ealing, west London, told the BBC: "We're concerned it could become a precedent, we could lose some of the specialness of Sunday.

"Sunday should be a time for relationships, a time when we put some boundaries on consumerism, so you can go to the park and play football with the kids, and take your mum breakfast in bed."

Start Quote

Any relaxation... would erode our existing, popular, Sunday trading rules ”

End Quote James Lowman Association of Convenience Stores

The Sunday Trading Act 1994 states that shops over 280 square metres in England and Wales are restricted to any six hours of continuous trading between 10:00 and 18:00 on Sundays.

And they cannot open at all on Easter Sunday.

The law also includes measures to protect the rights of shop workers who wish not to work on Sunday.

By temporarily suspending these rules, the government hopes visitors heading to London for the Olympics will take advantage of longer opening hours, boosting flagging retail figures.

The Treasury is expected to closely monitor the suspension's effects and has not ruled out a permanent change.

Tory MP Nadine Dorries predicted that Mr Osborne would "face a barrage of criticism" as a result of the move.

She tweeted: "Arrogant to impose without debate and vote of whole house.

"Is the coalition government secretly implementing an anti-Christian agenda. And if so, who is driving it, Cameron and Osborne or the LDs?"

'Absolutely delighted'

Last year, Conservative MP Therese Coffey warned a temporary change for the Games might become permanent.

On Sunday she said: "I wouldn't stand in the way of shops being open in the Olympic Park during this time.

Westfield Stratford City The Westfield Stratford City shopping centre is located next to the Olympic Park

"But I just remind people that small, independent stores are allowed to open all day and this is an opportunity to celebrate them rather than having big stores open as well."

But party colleague Mark Menzies said he was "absolutely delighted" the plan was being taken up, saying it would "send out a very powerful message that Britain is open for business".

The MP for Fylde, whose background is in retail, said he had "no desire at this stage" to see longer opening hours beyond August.

The director of the Confederation of British Industry, John Cridland, backed the plan, saying: "I think it's going to do a lot for the spirit of Britain and for the businesses for Britain."

But Keep Sunday Special said the rumours were "profoundly worrying" and that it totally opposed the "unnecessary" move.

'Undermining the principle'

The Association of Convenience Stores warned the move could set an unwelcome precedent.

Chief executive James Lowman said on Sunday: "Any relaxation, even just for London during the Olympics, would erode our existing, popular, Sunday trading rules."

Mr Lowman added that the temporary concession could open the door for the big retail lobby to press for all sorts of exemptions for other events, "undermining the whole principle" of Sunday trading restrictions.

In Scotland, Sunday trading has long been deregulated with shops deciding their own hours.

In Northern Ireland, legislation introduced in 1997 allows large shops over 280 square metres to open between 13:00 and 18:00 on Sundays.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 752.

    If this turns out to be a permanent change then the whole way society runs would need to change. Schools, nurseries, childminders etc. would need to be fully functional on Sundays too, or are we saying that retail workers children should be left to fend for themselves.As for people 'needing' to shop on Sunday-ever heard of organising your life? Most towns have 24hr shops mon-fri. Shop in evenings!

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    Worked in retail in Scotland & typically finish at 10pm every Sunday (as well as working on boxing day and Jan 1st) I really hope England don't go down this route. Our laws mean we have no choice but on behalf of my English colleagues, let them keep their early finish on a Sunday. Retail workers spend their weekends, days and evenings at work, not with their children. Don't make this worse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 325.

    Sunday trading hours are a joke. Surely Saturday and Sunday are the easiest for most people to do their shopping. Is it 2012 or 1912? Once this is passed and we get this benefit for a few weeks everyone will embrace it. You want to go to church? Go to church. You want family time? Have family time. You need to go shopping? You can go shopping! Happy days ahead

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    I just find the current laws ridiculous. If I want to go out for a walk, or watch the grand prix, or do anything else on a Sunday, I'm always having to think around the ridiculous opening hours if I also need to go to a large shop. And while we are at it - it is absurd that banks and post offices are mostly open only when most other people are work. They need to open all day Sat and Sun too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    It's time that the Sunday Trading restrictions were completely abolished. There is no reason to make Sunday any different from any other day. Under current law no garden centre is allowed to trade on Easter Sunday, for instance. Why on earth not?


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