The Christian Institute has spoken out after the Government broke its promise not to extend Sunday trading by launching a snap consultation on empowering local authorities to extend hours.
In the consultation, launched during the summer holidays, ministers use the convenience of online shopping and the “lucrative” tourism industry to argue that shops should be open for longer on a Sunday.
They are arguing for the issue to be devolved to local authorities, giving them power to “improve the well-being of local citizens”.
But the Keep Sunday Special campaign was told ahead of the General Election that the Conservatives believed that the current system “provides a reasonable balance” and that they had “no current plans to relax the Sunday trading laws”.
Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, warned that extending Sunday trading could have damaging effects on Christians and society as a whole.
He said: “The Government has wasted no time in breaking its promise by clearly setting out its intention to change the law on Sunday trading. Just days before the election it said there were ‘no plans’ to change the law and yet it is already going back on that commitment.”
“Ministers say they are listening to views on the issue, but this is a snap consultation launched at a very bad time.
… this is a snap consultation launched at a very bad time.Colin Hart,The Christian Institute
“They have buried it in the middle of the summer holidays, and at a time when many Christian groups and church leaders are focused on an upcoming assisted suicide debate.
“This is a very serious issue affecting many Christians across the country, forcing them to choose between their faith and their job.
“Extended Sunday trading impacts not just shop assistants, but lorry drivers, cleaners, security guards and a whole host of other workers.
“Christian employees already receive inadequate protection from the current laws and these plans make things worse.
“There is no doubt that liberalising Sunday trading will lead to more pressure on people to work on Sundays, harming family life and further interfering with Sunday as a day of rest.”
Precious family time
The Church of England has also spoken out against the plans, warning that: “Any further erosion of shared community life, whether that is driven by central or local government, will be detrimental to all of us”.
And the TUC said that the increase in shopping hours “would take precious family time away from shopworkers”.
Last month, shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw warned: “The changes that the government is consulting on offer only chaos, confusion and contradiction.”
Columnist Tim Montgomerie has 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”.