Church of England Rejects Proposals to Extend Sunday Trading Hours

The Mission and Public Affairs Council of the Church of England has issued a resounding rejection of proposals from the Department of Trade and Industry to extend Sunday trading hours.

|TOP|As final preparations continue in the last few days before Easter Sunday, the Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs Council has joined the chorus of opposition to the further extension Sunday trading hours for major retail outlets.

The Church’s Mission and Public Affairs, led by the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Rev Tom Butler, was unanimous in its disapproval of the latest proposals by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Bishop Butler assured in a submission to DTI that the Church would “resist any further attempts to erode what still exists in legislation to safeguard the special nature of Sunday”.

The Bishop of Southwark also drew from a wide range of research that has indicated a negative impact on the family following the 1994 Sunday Trading Act.

|QUOTE|The submission centred its concerns on the impact of extended trading hours for shop workers as well as many others employed in retail support roles, such as cleaners, drivers and warehouse staff.

Under current law, larger retail stores are permitted to open on Sunday for six hours while Easter Sunday and Christmas Day remain the only two days in the calendar on which larger stores are not permitted to open at all.

While larger retail stores continue to press for longer Sunday trading hours, Bishop Butler argued that there was little enthusiasm among retailers to extend opening hours.

“We would want to emphasise the significance of a day in which people can attend to their spiritual life and the importance of Sunday allowing time for people to attend Christian worship,” said Bishop Butler.

|AD|“The costs to work-life balance, family life and stability, health of employees and the contribution of small retailers to community cohesion outweigh any potential benefits of further deregulation.”

Chair of the Council, Philip Giddings, told the Church of England Newspaper that “the business community will continue to chip away at Sundays and Easter Sunday and Christmas Day”.

He added: “It’s important that churches and other groups continue to monitor the situation.”

Earlier in the year, the Keep Sunday Special Campaign called on the government panel considering Sunday trading hours to examine the effect that weekend working is having on community and family life.

KSS’ campaign manager, John Alexander, now fears that the traditional trading-free Easter Sunday will suffer as a result of any extension of trading hours on Sunday.

He said: “The DTI have employed consultants to look at the cost benefit of Sunday trading and Easter Sunday Trading, from a purely economic standpoint.

“They have completely ignored the social, family and religious implications. He urged the government to pay heed to a report - Whose Convenience, released last week by a cross-party panel of Parliamentarians, which found the DTI guilty of a major error of judgement in seriously underestimating the social effects of extending Sunday trading hours.

“Further relaxing of the law would have a disastrous impact on family life.”

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