Ecumenical letter on Sunday Trading Deregulation
29th February 2016
SIR – As leaders of Christian communities England and Wales, we oppose the government’s plans to further deregulate Sunday Trading laws.
The current Sunday Trading arrangements offer a balance between consumer needs and the wider health of local communities. They make space for shopping, while preserving the common leisure time essential for family life and shared social activities. They also protect small stores from local near-monopolies, and preserve the right of shop workers to spend time with their families.
It is important to note that no evidence base has been established to show that further deregulation of Sunday Trading will bring substantial economic benefit to the UK. This is something that the response to the consultation failed to address. A recent study by Oxford Economics forecasts no net gain to the UK economy – only a loss of market share for smaller shops.
Although the proposals leave decisions to local authorities, such authorities will inevitably be placed under pressure to extend opening hours, given the way distribution systems work and the pressures of competition. And while we welcome government proposals for extra protections for shop workers, we remain unconvinced that these will be effective in practice.
Most fundamentally however, we are concerned that the further deregulation of Sunday Trading laws is likely to disrupt the rhythms of community life that are so integral to the common good. In a world of increasing commodification the space for shared time and activities, central to human flourishing, is becoming increasingly rare. Needlessly extending Sunday opening hours will only exacerbate this trend.
The Rt Revd Dr Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans
The Most Revd Peter Smith, Archbishop of Southwark
The Most Revd Dr Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales
The Revd Steven J Wild, President of the Methodist Conference
Colonel David Hinton, Chief Secretary, The Salvation Army
Revd David Grosch-Miller, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church