Unions accuse government of Sunday trading stitch-up
Business Secretary Sajid Javid yesterday announced he intended to introduce an amendment to the Enterprise Bill at committee stage, but did not say what that was amendment was.
Usdaw general secretary John Hannett, describing the move as “a disgraceful way of conducting business”, said: “The government consultation on Sunday trading closed nearly five months ago and they still haven’t published the responses, yet today they have announced plans to introduce legislation.
“Surely MPs should be able to see in full and have time to properly consider the responses of retailers, shopworkers, community leaders and all those who take an interest in Sunday trading.”
“MPs must take full account of the consequences of future decisions on Sunday trading, particularly the impact on the retail trade and on their constituents.
“This is a disgraceful way to conduct government business. They propose devolving Sunday trading, but ducked inserting the changes into the Devolution Bill. Instead the Enterprise Bill is being used, yet there was no indication of this from ministers when the Bill went through the House of Lords.
“When the Government temporarily suspended Sunday trading laws for the 2012 Olympics, Ministers gave categorical assurances that any attempt to permanently change the law would be subject to a full public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny. Tabling an amendment at this stage breaks that promise and the consultation is not complete until it has been published in full.
“Just before the election the Prime Minister wrote to the Keep Sunday Special Campaign saying: ‘I can assure you that we have no current plans to relax the Sunday trading laws. We believe that the current system provides a reasonable balance between those who wish to see more opportunities to shop in large stores on a Sunday, and those who would like to see further restrictions.’ Neither was there any mention of Sunday Trading in the Conservative manifesto at the General Election last May.
“Today’s shoddy treatment of both houses of parliament amounts to broken promises and a betrayal of shopworkers and all those who regard Sunday as a special day, different from any other. Some elements of the Conservative Party appear to have an endless obsession with deregulating Sunday trading no matter what the consequences are.
“The Sunday Trading Act is a great British compromise, which has worked well for over 20 years and gives everyone a little bit of what they want. Retailers can trade, customers can shop, staff can work; whilst Sunday remains a special day, different to other days, and shopworkers can spend some time with their family.”
Criticising plans to devolve powers for Sunday opening hours to councils.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “These plans are ill-thought through and would be bad for workers and small businesses.
“It is essential that MPs from all parties oppose them. Too many staff already feel pressurised into working on Sunday and giving up their family time. Extending opening hours will only make this problem worse.
“The government is de-regulating for the sake of it. There is no pressure from shoppers to make changes. But there is a real risk that smaller retailers could be pushed out of business if larger stores can stay open for longer.”