Attempts to introduce all-day Sunday shopping would erode the time that families spend together and pressurise workers into longer hours, critics have warned.
In today’s Budget George Osborne announced a U-turn on a pre-election assurance not to change the current law.
The Church of England, the TUC and The Christian Institute have spoken out against the move, which could see large shops open for more than the current maximum of six hours.
Carol Midgley, a columnist for The Times, said: “The Conservatives claim to be family-friendly, yet creating conditions in which more people, often low-paid, will be pressured into working Sundays is not”.
Fellow columnist Tim Montgomerie said the individual choice given to some people “to buy goods they don’t need with money they don’t have requires that another person’s Sunday visit to Gran or to church must end — or their employability might suffer”.
He said if the plans were introduced, the “already limited opportunities for some families to enjoy any time together are eroded once more”.
Yesterday Government Minister Anna Soubry told BBC Radio 4 that Sunday was “the most miserable day of the week”.
But The Christian Institute said that “for many people, and especially Christians, it remains a special day, a day of rest”.
The Institute commented that increasing shopping hours would hit individual workers, pressurising them “to work at the expense of spending time with their family or at church”.
The Church of England warned of the negative effect of the proposal – a consultation on allowing local authorities and elected mayors to make the individual decisions on opening hours.
“Any further erosion of shared community life, whether that is driven by central or local government, will be detrimental to all of us”, the Church said.
The critics were joined by the TUC which said that the increase in shopping hours “would take precious family time away from shopworkers”.
Labour leadership contenders also criticised the Conservative Government’s plans, with Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall speaking out on Twitter.
Burnham said he would “oppose this all the way”, while Kendall said the current law strikes the right balance.