Sunday Trading Rules – Catholic Bishops’ Response

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Following the publication of proposals for devolving the rules on Sunday Trading by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills yesterday, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales have published their submission to the Government Consultation in August 2015.


A response on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales to the consultation on devolving Sunday trading rules (August 2015):

1. We welcome the opportunity to comment on these proposals and feel strongly that it would be a mistake to further deregulate Sunday Trading.

2. While Sunday Trading is already deregulated in many economic sectors, Sunday nevertheless retains a unique atmosphere that is positive for families and communities. Devolving the power of decision making concerning regulation of Sunday Trading by large businesses would inevitably weaken this in some areas of England and Wales.

3. The government’s commitment that Christmas Day and Easter Sunday will not be affected by the proposals is extremely welcome. These Holy Days are observed by a very large number of people throughout England and Wales. They are also particularly important opportunities for many extended families to spend time together.

4. While we support the government’s commitment that under the proposals shop workers will retain their right to opt-out of working on Sunday in line with the Employment Rights Act 1996, we recognise legitimate concerns that where large business are permitted to open for longer on Sunday, some employees may face pressure to work extra hours.1

5. Economic growth and consumer choice are important but should never be the only criteria on which prosperity is measured. It is disappointing that other factors such as community cohesion and family life are not addressed in the consultation document.

6. During recent years there has been a widely recognised decline in the amount of quality time that families share2
and the number of joint activities that they partake in.3
Continuing to erode the special nature of Sunday as a ‘common day off’ will inevitably make it harder to address this trend.

7. Furthermore the principle of a ‘common day off’ is extremely important for volunteer groups, clubs and societies. The consultation document understandably highlights the importance of supporting local high streets, but fails to acknowledge the damage that could be caused to other important features of local communities.

Usdaw survey: 48% of members questioned said they already face pressure from their employer to work on Sundays and 72% felt they would face added pressure if shops were allowed to open longer on a Sunday (2012)
Association of Teachers and Lecturers survey: 56% of members questioned thought children spent a lot less time with their families than they did 20 years ago (2014)
4Children survey: 62% of people questioned felt they went on fewer family days out than they did 20 years ago (2011)

Most Revd Peter Smith
Archbishop of Southwark
Chair, Catholic Bishops’ Conference Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship