Government accused of lacking transparency on Sunday trading

Tue 09 Feb 2016
By Antony Bushfield

The government has been accused of hiding the real results of a consultation on its plans to extend Sunday trading hours for large shops in England and Wales.

Ministers have published the outcome of its process to find out what the public thought about the proposals but unions and Christian campaigners are not satisfied.

Shop workers trade union USDAW said the government had "not only failed to listen to the retail industry, but has gone out of their way to ignore the views, research and evidence of everyone".

Under the proposals included in the Enterprise Bill local authorities would be able to relax current laws which prohibit large shops to just six hours trading on a Sunday.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said it had received 7,000 responses to the consultation from a number of groups including Christian organisations.

Whilst not publishing full results the department said Trade Unions, religious bodies and a number of small businesses and individuals who responded were against the proposals.

It added that the majority of respondents to the consultation from local authorities, business representative organisations and large and medium business respondents were in favour.

The Christian charity CARE condemned the consultation process and said the government was not being transparent.

Chief Executive Nola Leach said: "There has been a total lack of transparency over these plans to expand Sunday trading and it is deeply disappointing that the government should handle such a critical policy in this manner.

"The government's summary of consultation responses is short on detail but heavy on spin.

"At the end of the day, government depends on trust and if you hold a public consultation then people have a right for their views to be taken seriously but that has clearly not happened in this instance.

"The social fabric of our nation is under considerable strain as it is and these plans will have a direct impact on family life, failing the Prime Minister's own Family Test and should therefore be abandoned."

Christian MP and Tory backbencher David Burrowes said: "The Government should still listen to the significant opposition to this unnecessary and unwanted plan.

"Otherwise I look forward to leading an unholy cross-party alliance in defeating a measure which is anti-family, anti-small business and anti-workers."

The government had tried to ease opposition to the changes by introducing a "religious opt out" for Christians so they could refuse to work Sundays with one month's notice.

If the Enterprise Bill passes parliament large stores could be free to open 24 hours, seven days a week by the Autumn.

Business Minister Anna Soubry said: "Extending Sunday shopping hours has the potential to help businesses and high streets better compete as our shopping habits change.

"The rights of shop workers are key to making these changes work in everyone's interests. We are protecting those who do not wish to work Sundays, and those who do not want to work more than their normal Sunday working hours."

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