Sunday trading proposals contradict The Big Society and will damage families, says Church of England

The Church of England has criticised Government plans to devolve responsibility for Sunday Trading regulations, saying it contradicts David Cameron's idea of The Big Society.

'Keep Sunday Special' is a coalition of organisations campaigning against the devolution of Sunday trading laws.

The mission and public affairs council of the Church of England firmly opposed the plans in a document submitted to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Current laws restrict opening hours for large stores on a Sunday but smaller stores can open all day. The Government's proposal is to allow local areas to decide the Sunday trading rules for themselves.

However the Church of England's response argued this would damage community and family life.

"We believe that proposals to extend Sunday shopping hours are directly contradictory to the Government's desire to build more resilient local communities and to encourage social capital to take the place of the state in creating good neighbourhoods," the Church's response read.

"It runs counter to the whole philosophy of The Big Society which the Prime Minister championed.

"We do not believe that a trend toward longer shopping hours will promote the kind of resilient community life which would improve the quality of life for all."

The Church also raised concerns about shop workers being forced to work on Sundays. Protections allowing workers to opt out of Sunday working were included in the 1994 Sunday Trading Act but these "have not proved to be robust," according to the Church's response.

"Shop workers have reported coercion at various levels which has made it hard to resist enforced Sunday working.

"As the industry employs many people, especially women, with families, the loss of family time for shop workers is a considerable concern and further erosion of the time they do have is something we will continue to resist."

As well as criticising the implications for local communities and family, the Church's response also said the economic arguments were not persuasive. The claims of economic benefit, the church said, were based on the assumption that every local area would opt to extend Sunday trading hours.

"It would be a mockery of local decision making."

The consultation is now closed and the government has said it is considering the responses it has received before publishing the outcome.