The Government is to consider making extended Olympic Sunday trading hours permanent, but critics are concerned about the impact on families.
During the six weeks of the Olympics and Paralympics large shops are allowed to choose when they open on a Sunday, rather than being restricted to six hours between 10am and 6pm.
Yesterday The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the legislation allowing unrestricted opening was for a defined period but a “number of people want to look at this issue”.
Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, said over the weekend: “I’m always keen that we respect people’s religious beliefs. But I think we should kind of look long and hard at the results.”
However Labour’s Chuka Umunna, the party’s business spokesman, commented: “We were very clear – a temporary relaxation of Sunday trading restrictions should not be used as a trojan horse for permanent change.”
Mark Pritchard, a Conservative MP, said: “This is a major breach of trust between the Government and the many Conservative MPs who only supported the measure because the Government promised the change would be temporary only.
“A permanent change would harm small traders, workers’ rights, and further damage relations between the Church and the Government”, he commented.
The MP also warned: “The fact is many people spend Sunday with their families, they decide to go to Church, just have some down time and if the Government want to see Sunday like every other trading day then I think they should be explicit and say it.”
The Daily Telegraph’s Philip Johnston noted “opening big shops for longer will undoubtedly have an impact on the lives of those who work in them and who see less of their families as a result”.
And national newspaper commentator Terance Blacker said Sunday trading laws are “important”, adding, “it is good to be off the treadmill of consumerism, if only for a few hours, once a week”.