Sunday trading laws suspended for the Olympics
George Osborne confirmed today that restrictions on Sunday trading would be lifted this summer during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
He said that the possibility of keeping shops open longer on a Sunday would help retailers generate tens of millions of pounds in increased profits during London 2012, “maximising the economic benefit of the Olympics.”
Business minister Norman Lamb agreed. He said: “Retail workers will keep all their legal protections, such as the right to opt out of Sunday working, but many will want to take the opportunity to work extra or different hours.”
He added: “This will be a fantastic opportunity to showcase not just London, but the whole of the country to the rest of the world and provide a boost for the economy.”
The change has been carried on with private lobbying by large retailers, including the Trafford Centre in Manchester and Selfridges in London.
However, there is strong opposition from Labour, trade unions, the Church of England and the Keep Sunday Special Campaign.
John Hannett, general secretary of the shop workers’ union USDAW, said: “Deregulation would do little to stimulate growth or create jobs, but would have a very detrimental impact on the lives of millions of shop workers and their families.”
The Church of England also expressed clearly its opposition to any further attempts to erode the special nature of Sunday. A spokesman said: “We believe that for family stability and community life, as many people as possible should have the possibility of a common day off every week.” Currently over one million families have at least one parent working on both weekend days, meaning they already have little time to spend with their children. A change in trading laws would only exacerbate this.
John Ashcroft, a spokesman for the Keep Sunday Special Campaign, said the proposals were “unnecessary, and merely a cover for creeping deregulation”.
The campaign has had backing from shadow chancellor Ed Balls, who claimed it ensured working mothers could stay at home with their families on Mothering Sunday.
The possibility of shopping on Sundays is something quite recent. Until 1994, only specialist outlets such as garden centres, corner shops or chemists were allowed to trade on Sundays. Under current trading laws shops of more than 280 square metres can open for a maximum of six hours between 10:00 and 18:00 on a Sunday.