UK Politics

Boxing Day shopping ban petition being debated by MPs

Boxing Day sales crowd Image copyright EPA

Large stores should be banned from opening on Boxing Day, an MP has suggested, as an antidote to the nation's "obsession with shopping".

Helen Jones said Boxing Day should be a "day of rest" after the rigours of Christmas and starting sales meant lost family time and staff being exploited.

An online petition urging curbs has attracted more than 100,000 signatures.

Conservative Philip Hollobone said any ban in the internet age risked placing MPs on the "wrong side of history".

And his colleague, Conservative MP Andrea Jenkyns, said the UK "should not bite the hand that feeds us" - suggesting that clamping down on one of the busiest days of the year was counter-productive.

'Family time'

The government has said it will not tell retailers "how to run their shops or how best to serve their customers".

There are currently no controls on trading hours on that day unless it happens to fall on a Sunday, and campaigners say workers need more rest.

But an e-petition calling for Boxing Day to be given protected status similar to Christmas Day and Easter Day gained 138,235 signatures - more than the 100,000 required for Parliament to consider holding a debate.

Image copyright HoC
Image caption Helen Jones says people should not have to work on Boxing Day

It states: "Christmas is a family time. The one day is not enough time to see two sides of families. Retail workers work extremely hard during the Christmas run up and only get the one day.

"If only everywhere could be closed Boxing Day! Some things are needed over the festive period; retail isn't one of them."

'Day of rest'

Backing the petition, Ms Jones - who is Labour MP for Warrington North - said that while she enjoyed shopping the "debt-fuelled shopping binge" represented by the Boxing Day sales did not do anyone any good.

Many shops opened not because they got a massive uplift in sales but merely because their rivals did, she suggested.

"I doubt very much anything would change if they did not start until the 27th," she said.

Workers were being exploited, she suggested, with many not getting any time off after October, having to get up as early as 05:00 GMT on Boxing Day because of a lack of public transport and not being paid overtime for their troubles.

"Christmas Day can be a very nice day but it is not necessarily a very relaxing day," she said. "It is not if you have young children or if you have to cook dinner."

"So many of us, like me, say Boxing Day is our day of rest. That is not available to many people in retail."

'No ban'

Mr Hollobone, MP for Kettering, said he sympathised with the argument but a ban would not help the thousands of people who would still have to process internet orders and that, instead, people should be able to voluntarily request not to work on Boxing Day.

In its response to the petition, the government said: "We do not believe it is for central government to tell businesses how to run their shops or how best to serve their customers. Therefore we are not proposing to ban shops from opening on Boxing Day."

The Christmas Day Trading Act prohibits shops larger than 280 sq m from opening on 25 December, but Boxing Day is important for the retail industry.

Last year, experts predicted that 22 million people, many attracted by sales, would spend more than £3bn.

And, in 2014, 365,000 people in the UK retail industry worked on Boxing Day, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Monday's debate, which is scheduled to run to 19:30 GMT, will not involve a vote so cannot enforce a change in the law, but is a chance for MPs to demonstrate whether it is an issue with much support in Parliament.

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