In 1986 a bill to allow unrestricted Sunday Trading in England and Wales was defeated in Parliament. Strangely there never has been any legal restrictions on Sunday trading in Scotland (except for pubs). In 1994 however, another less permissive regime did manage to pass into law. This enabled the current situation which we now enjoy: the larger shops (those over 3000 Square feet) are allowed to open for up to six hours between 10 o’clock in the morning and 6 o’clock in the evening on Sundays.
Following the successful extended Sunday opening during the Olympics there has been some pressure to revisit the question of extending Sunday opening once again. Personally, I think that it is unfair to restrict high street opening when internet shopping proceeds unrestrained on a Sunday. Restrictions have never applied in Scotland but they appear to get along quite reasonably: Sundays there seem to remain ‘special’ and I understand that Church attendance is proportionately higher than in England.
In recent weeks. I have received quite a large number of emails asking me to vote against changes to Sunday trading hours which are now before Parliament. This is a false premise and I have replied pointing out that no such proposal is before Parliament. The proposal was not to change opening hours, but to change the responsibility for determining the trading hours. Currently Sunday trading in England and Wales is a matter for Parliament in Westminster. The proposal was to allow decisions for England and Wales to be devolved to local authorities, so that elected councils would be allowed to say how long on a Sunday larger shops could remain open for. So, there was no plan to change the hours, only to change who makes decisions about the hours.
Frankly, it seems reasonable to let more important decisions be made locally, as indeed they are in Scotland. This whole issue has apparently now been shelved because, with a majority of only 12, a small number of Tory rebels threatened to vote against the measure as they believe it is important to defend the rights of Christians not to work on a Sunday. As a Christian myself, I think they are mistaken but I respect their decision and their principles.
Labour is opposed to the measure because the Trades Unions oppose it. Though I rather suspect that many workers would welcome the extra overtime and the additional jobs it will create.
The Scottish Nationalists however, really do win the prize for unprincipled absurdity. They have no restrictions in Scotland, and they can control hours if they want to in their own Parliament at Holyrood. Yet they want to prevent English councils making decisions which do not affect Scotland at all. Having failed to get the Scots to vote for independence last year. I sometimes wonder if their new strategy is to annoy the English to such an extent that we vote for it instead.