Tuesday 9 June 2020 9:52 am

DEBATE: Is the proposal to suspend Sunday trading laws misguided?

Rachael Maskell is Labour MP for York Central
Mark Allatt
Mark Allatt is director of Open Sundays

Is the proposal to suspend Sunday trading laws for a year misguided?

Rachael Maskell, Labour MP for York Central, says YES.

Shop workers have been at the forefront of responding to our needs during this crisis. They immediately stepped up to meet the demands in their communities to ensure that everyone was able to receive the food they needed and were safely fed. 

Over this time, many of them put their health and their lives at risk, as necessary protections and PPE equipment were not available. However, our shop workers have continued to work through every challenge.

We know that many shop workers also face structural challenges which lead to health inequalities and, as the Public Health England report highlighted last week, have exposed them more to Covid-19.

Having supported us, it is time that they too were given the necessary support from their communities. They deserve some time off on Sundays.

I will therefore be opposing the proposed measures to extend Sunday Trading hours. Shop workers’ rights and their time with their families should be protected. 

We have managed this far with limited trading hours on Sundays. We can continue to manage.

Read more: Labour not supportive of changing Sunday trading laws

Mark Allatt, co-founder of Open Sundays, says NO.

Longer Sunday opening hours have become part of the response for some large food stores during the Covid-19 crisis, but up until now there has been no change in the law. 

When the restrictions on social distancing are lifted, many people would see the reversion to strict observance of Sunday opening hours as reinforcing an absurd legal position. 

We should therefore welcome the proposal to suspend the current archaic Sunday Trading laws for 12 months. Indeed, I would urge the government to make this suspension permanent.

Alongside other measures to boost retail, the suspension of the Sunday laws would give people more choice to work and shop at the weekend, as well as giving our retailers the shot in the arm they will need to lead the country out of recession. 

The last time the restrictions on Sunday opening were lifted was in 2012 for the London Olympics, when Boris Johnson was mayor of London — resulting in a significant increase in sales. This measure will provide a much-needed post Covid-19 economic boost. 

Restrictions on Sunday trading have no place in twenty-first century Britain.

Read more: Time to scrap our archaic and misguided Sunday trading laws

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.