As the major inconvenience to the weekend, Sunday trading hours force me to squeeze a weeks worth of shopping into 1.5 days. My task of zig-zagging between various shops is not helped by the fact that everyone else is doing exactly the same or simply just getting in my way. From mums and kids having done all their shopping during the week, have nothing better to do than idle about taking up the rest of the walk way unused by the other oxygen thieves; the grey army.
We all know that these trading hours are a religiously based as they inconvenience most of us so that a one religious group can sure of their influence. It is yet another example of how we are far from the secular society most of us believe we live in. I often wonder if the reason weekend shopping is so manic is because of the time limit.
The DTI launched a review of the existing Sunday trading legislation in January 2006, and was considering extending permitted Sunday trading hours from six to nine. There are no laws restricting the trading hours of between Monday and Saturday so rather than an extension the government should just abolish the christian based trading restrictions and allow businesses to decide their own hours.
Smaller shops currently have no restrictions on Sunday opening hours, and have whined that any changes in the law could place them at a disadvantage, making it harder to compete against large supermarkets and chain stores.
Under the Sunday Trading Act 1994 a shop that is less than 280 square metres in size can open at will on Sunday. However, shops bigger than this can only open for six hours (consecutive) between 10am and 6pm given that:
1. They notify the local authority
2. Provide visual signs of their opening hours both internally and externally.
All businesses MUST close on two specific Sundays:
1. Easter Sunday
2. Christmas Day (falling on a Sunday)
The DTI (unable to do its own work) appointed (at tax payers expense) Indepen Consulting (an independent management and economic consultancy) to produce an economic cost-benefit analysis report on the impact of allowing large shops to open for longe. The headline conclusion of the cost benefit analysis is that the net economic benefit of full liberalisation is worth £20.3 billion over 20 years or £1.4 billion per annum. The report also states that the net benefit of allowing large shops to open on Easter Sunday would be £1.03 billion over 20 years.
The proposals were opposed by unions, religious groups (christian), and more than 220 MPs.
Sunday Shopping Review
In November 2005, Alan Johnson, then Secretary of State, asked DTI officials to review the pros and cons of relaxing the restrictions on Sunday shop opening hours. The Sunday Trading Act 1994, and hence the review, only applies to England and Wales.
From January to April 2006 we asked for views and evidence on this subject from consumers, religious groups, employees and businesses, not only on the economic case, but on all aspects of further relaxation of the current restrictions. A summary of the responses is available on the right.
During February 2006 we held a Small Business Service Focus group on the impact of relaxing the restrictions on Sunday shopping hours. A full report of this discussion can be found on the right.
In early 2006 the DTI appointed Indepen Consulting (an independent management and economic consultancy) to produce an economic cost-benefit analysis report on the impact of allowing large shops to open for longer. A full version of their report was published in May 2006 and can be found on the right.
As part of the consultation process, DTI organised a half-day conference in London on 10 May 2006 to discuss Indepen’s analysis. To the right are:
- Indepen’s main presentation on the cost benefit analysis
- Indepen’s presentation on international comparisons
- a full report of the conference, including a summary of the discussions in the various forums
On 6 July Secretary of State Alistair Darling announced that the government had listened to the results of the informal consultation and having looked at the evidence on all aspects of the issue, concluded that there should be no change to the Sunday trading laws.
The DTI have said that they considered all aspects of the impact of changes to Sunday trading; “It is clear that there is no substantial demand for change to the present regime. Most respondents believe the current situation strikes the right balance between all the interests involved. After considering all the evidence received, we have concluded that this is not the right time to make any changes to the Sunday trading laws.”
When does the government give up the chance for an extra £3.55 billion? When it rocks the boat with religious voters.