Opinion: Deregulate Sunday trading to go for growth

The Coalition needs to get over its obsession with small businesses – and deregulate Sunday trading
With the recent fragility of the Coalition, it’s easy to forget that the Lib Dems do agree with the Tories on some issues. If we didn’t, it would have been impossible to forge a workable government in the first place. Mounting instability over constitutional reform makes it all the more important that the two parties can work together where their philosophies do align. One of those areas is economic and regulatory policy. Despite some notable blind spots, the Conservatives do share our belief in the strength of the free market to provide long-run economic growth. While many regulations are necessary and right, the Coalition should be able to work together in order to eliminate arbitrary and damaging rules that distort rather than level the economic playing field.

That’s why it was so disappointing to read about the latest coalition disagreement, with sources suggesting that Vince Cable would oppose moves to deregulate Sunday trading. Currently, shops spanning more than 3000 square feet can only open for a maximum of six hours, and only between 10am and 6pm. This restriction is pointless and, while removing it obviously wouldn’t produce a surge in economic growth, it could only help long-term. This is a point lost even on unruly Tory backbenchers like Mark Pritchard, who slammed the move, saying “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”.

As I see it, there are three main objections to repealing the law. The first is from Church groups, who are campaigning to ‘Keep Sunday Special.’ Fortunately, we don’t live in a society where economics is subordinate to religion. Having eventually managed to get our heads around the concept of usury, it would be a great shame to regress now. We can assume, however, that – barring spontaneous conversion to evangelism – neither Vince Cable nor Nick Clegg ascribe to this view.

Rather, they take a different but equally bizarre stance, siding with the trade unions. The official position of USDAW, the main retailer’s union, is that workers need ‘quality time with their families,’ citing the need to maintain ‘any semblance of work-life balance.’ But the real problem here is that workers are not being allowed to work, even if they want to. With unemployment stubbornly remaining above 8%, it’s absurd to prevent the firms that want to employ people from doing so. The central point here relies on a core tenet of the liberalism we are supposed to espouse. People may not want to work extra hours on Sundays. Firms may not want to open longer. But it should be them, rather than the government, who decides.

The third objection to deregulation, that it would ‘harm small traders,’ is a symptom of a worrying trend. Government rhetoric and policy increasingly fetishises small businesses. Yes, the idea of thriving local retailers is a much more palatable one than the opening of yet another Primark or Tesco, but the evidence suggests that pay and conditions are equal or better at large firms. If small businesses were the primary engines of growth, then Greece and Italy would be the powerhouse of the world economy. Innovation and growth come not from small businesses but from expanding ones, and regulations designed to give smaller enterprises an advantage often serve simply to discourage this expansion. There’s no reason why established or growing firms should be gratuitously punished for their success.
Ultimately, the government needs to get over its obsession with small enterprises, set aside bickering over constitutional reform and focus on giving all firms a better and more equal business environment.

* Theo Clifford is an aspiring student and blogs at economicsondemand.com.

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55 Comments

  • Would you realy buy more things if all the shops were open on Sunday?
    Or would you buy the same amount of total stuff and just not buy it on one of the other days of the week?
    Assuming you find you don’t need an extra telly, fridge, car, more carpets etc just because the shops that sell them are now open longer, the following will happen:-
    So the shops will be open for more hours, drawing higher energy and staff costs for the same volume of sales.
    In order to not lose profits, the shop owners will have to reduce staff costs.
    Not really a growth-generating scheme, is it?

  • err, ‘open markets’ is the liberal economic position, ‘free markets’ is the extreme version of the liberal idea.

    Lack of regulation can be equally damaging as excessive regulation.

    I’m not convinced the short-term potential economic benefits of a shopping free-for-all outweigh the long-term cultural harm caused by a slide into the depths of consumerism.

  • coldcomfort 15th Aug '12 - 9:57am

    The current legislation in England is subverted by Sainsbury & Tesco opening high street mini stores of less than 3000sqft thus masquerading as ‘small shops’. By all means scrap the restrictions on Sunday opening for the giants but there MUST be a bargaining counter which they can’t get round which prevents them screwing their suppliers when they want to make an ‘offer’ . And their minds could be even more focused if a failure to agree on this ‘fair go’ for suppliers if there was the threat that the Sunday rules might otherwise be revised in the opposite direction to prevent ‘big brand’ small shops enjoying extended Sunday opening.

  • I agree with tommy5d.

    There’s also the question of Easter Sunday and Christmas Day, on which big stores aren’t allowed to open at all. I recall being quite annoyed earlier this year to find I couldn’t buy any food. Easter Sunday, at least, is not a special day for most people. That law should be thrown in the bin.

  • Richard Dean 15th Aug '12 - 10:23am

    Sunday trading means that supermarkets need to open fewer stores to serve the same number of customers, since otherwise most people would do their weekly shop on Friday night or Saturday and the place would be more crowded. This also means they don’t need to employ so many staff, since the Saturday peak demand will be lower than it would be otherwise.

    Liberalism is not the same as having no regulation – quite the opposite, it’s about having regulation that increases the quality of life. Work-life balance really is very important – we work in order to live, not the other way around, and we should not force some poorer folk to work Sundays simply so that richer folk can have greater convenience.

  • Richard Dean 15th Aug '12 - 10:43am

    … and if Sunday trading were ok, why not other work too, like having factories operating seven days a week, farms farming seven days a week, builders building seven days a weeks, buses and taxis and trains operating weekday schedules seven days a week, ….

    Would people buy more as a result? – no, they’d have less time to enjoy life! Would we produce more? – no, there wouldn’t be the demand! Would the economy be buzing along more efficiently? – no, everyone would be doing less than what they did before and taking more time to do it. Would we be happier? – no, we need our non-working days!

  • Peter Davies 15th Aug '12 - 10:50am

    One plus point of Sunday trading is that it evens out demand on public transport, roads and probably several other facilities.

    Another is that large employers working all hours will often offer more flexibility from the employee’s point of view. Unless your partner is also a shop worker on the same shift pattern then having Sunday evening off is not necessarily beneficial and for many people nowadays, spending quality time with your family can mean having different hours from your ex.

  • In Scotland workers are almost always paid a premium for working on a Sunday. By all means liberalise the Sunday trading laws, but just understand this will result in increased business costs that will be passed on to the consumer.

    And I really don’t get the ‘grow the economy’ argument, people aren’t going to spend more, they would, at best, just spread their spending over 7 days, instead of 6.5.

  • “we are well on the way to deifying the consumer and elevating shopping to the highest form of human endeavour.”

    Except it’s not about that at all, is it? It’s about giving people control of their own lives and allowing them to go shopping as and when they like, instead of being pushed into pre-arranged times by outdated government interference. (Take orthodox Jews for example, who can’t shop on Saturdays due to their religion – should they have to take time out during the week to shop simply because of this?) People should have the freedom to arrange their lives *as they wish*, and if that means going on a family shopping trip on a Sunday morning rather than sitting around peaceably according to the pre-conceived and outdated notions of others, then so be it. Give us the option, don’t take it away for some spurious notion of our own good and work/life balance.

  • I think you only need to look to the pub Industry and the changes to the licencing hours too see that this does not work and indeed has more adverse effects than positive ones.

    Pubs trading for longer hours resulted in Higher costs, i.e electricity.
    It also had a massive effect on staffing resulting in many businesses having to cut down on full time staffing in favour of more part time, flexible staffing.

    At then end of the day, people only have “X” amount of pounds to spend, so regardless of whether someone chooses to go out between the Hours of 9pm and 12pm or to go out later between the hours of 11pm and 6am, they still only had the same amount of money to spend,

    The end of week takings where not really up, however, your costs rose dramatically to earn the same figures prior to the changes in the Law,
    And of course to remain competitive with your regulars, you needed to be seen as offering the same level of service as the pub down the road.

    With the lack of Full time jobs available at the moment, I do not think new policies that could possibly result in even fewer F/T positions and increasing part time, would be a good thing for the economy, welfare or unemployment figues.
    More part time positions means
    1) more people claiming unemployment and 2) more people claiming tax credits to top up part time incomes

  • This is laughable – as if somehow up and down the country people have these pots of cash set by which they’ve been unable to spend because of Sunday closing. As for the reiteration of steam-powered, obsolete proto-Liberalism (proclaimed nevertheless in the kind of eager, breathless prose one would expect from a devotee of Ayn Rand), it is long past time that some party members opened their eyes and smelled the incoming lost deposits. If your ‘open markets’ doctrine is so right and so pro-growth, why is the economy flatlining and why does 90% of the electorate hate us?

  • Richard Dean 15th Aug '12 - 11:50am

    “allowing them to go shopping as and when they like”

    The new freedom? Let’s have free money! Surely we have that right? Sorry slaves, it’s your job to row, it’s mine to enjoy the view! Destiny. God’s will. You make the I-phones so that I can use them, that”s just how it is. Stop rioting. Get used to it.

    There’s a bus leaving London for Damascus at 8pm, don’t be on it!

  • “If your ‘open markets’ doctrine is so right and so pro-growth, why is the economy flatlining and why does 90% of the electorate hate us?”

    Well how about this: because of the Eurozone meltdown and not actually following through on the pro-market rhetoric to the first part, and tuition fees, broken promises, and looking like a shifty bunch for the second? Not sure why being in favour of allowing shops to open on a Sunday morning = AYN RAND though…

    Not sure what Richard Dean is on about – with respect, I think you missed the point about allowing people to choose when they go shopping?

  • Z, I think Richard Dean might be pointing out that your right to go shopping on a sunday might conflict with the right of workers not to be pressurised into working on a sunday, as will happen.

  • Hello from Scotland. From a Scottish perspective, it is difficult to understand what all the fuss is about ( on both sides of the argument)!

  • Regardless of the good or bad points of retailers keeping Sunday hours, this is ridiculous:
    “People may not want to work extra hours on Sundays. Firms may not want to open longer. But it should be them, rather than the government, who decides.”
    Does the author really think that workers have full autonomy in deciding what their hours are? As for the firms, if their competitors decide to open extra hours, they will feel forced to compete whether they like it or not. In neither case is there a real choice; legalizing Sunday hours is equivalent to a command: You SHALL open and work on Sundays whether you like it or not.
    There might be an economic case to be made for that; but let’s not pretend that this is really about freedom.

  • Richard Dean 15th Aug '12 - 2:02pm

    @Z
    Political policies are ways of designing society and how it works. As liberals and democrats, we need to avoid designing society solely for the convenience of one small group of people. Rights of one must be balanced with rights of another. For this reason, there is no absolute right to shop anywhere or anytime. Desires to do so have to be balanced with effects on others.

  • @David
    *Of course* it is about freedom – the freedom to open your business, the freedom to shop when you please. Allowing flexibility in the contracts of workers, as others have mentioned, overcomes your problem, and as for ‘forcing companies to compete’, well yes! They are businesses, they compete in the market. It is not the place of government to say ‘and on the seventh day He rested, therefore so should businesses’.

    @Richard Dean
    Except I’m not convinced that allowing shops to open on a Sunday counts as ‘designing society solely for the convenience of one small group of people’. Surely it is the actual banning of it that causes said interference, said designing? And I don’t think the piece is arguing for an ‘ absolute right to shop’ – I’m certainly not. What is being argued for is the right to live your life as to your own wishes – allowing shops to open on a Sunday morning is no imposition. Who are the people being negatively affected by this that you mention? Workers there are paid, shops receive profits. The only real losers I can see are Churches, and we surely shouldn’t legislate primarily to their benefit…

  • Richard Dean 15th Aug '12 - 2:39pm

    Allowing shops to open on Sunday is certainly an imposition .,.. on those who have to work there. Remember – we are not here just for one group of people, the big shoppers. We are here for the little people too.

  • Richard Dean 15th Aug '12 - 3:39pm

    While I mostly agree with LiberalEye , I suggest that an “open” market is not really to do with stability, but with accessibility. An open market is one that outsiders can enter without unfair restraint, as sellers or as buyers, see eg . http://www.investorwords.com/3446/open_market.html.

    An open market would be the desirable opposite of the undesirable end state of an unregulated (free?) market.

  • My son works in a shop so I feel qualified to comment on the effect Sunday opening has on our lives.

    When he has to work on a Sunday, our entire family life is affected.
    Shoppers don’t realise that the workers work either side of the opening times so a shop open 10am – 4pm will have staff working at least 9am – 5pm.

    Sunday is the day we all sit round the table & enjoy a meal together. Sunday is the only day we have available to go out as a family.

    What is so important that any entire work / life balance needs to be upset just so you can shop at 6pm on a Sunday instead of getting there by 3pm ?

    How long before all other businesses are being demanded to open 7 days a week ? Can I ring my local council about my council tax bill at the weekend ? No, time they were made to open then – just in case I want to ring them ?!!

    Honestly, the whole proposal is ridiculous & if it was the be all & end all to economic miracles, how come Scotland isn’t bailing England out ?!

  • kris king your son chose to go for the job and if the hours/days aren’t ideal then welcome to the real world! i leave my house at 7 and get home from work 12 hours later but some of us are happy and grateful to have a job at all.

  • Lots of firms work 24/7 – the Merseyside Jaguar Land Rover plant is the latest to move to three shift, seven day working. Should liberals tell JLR to spend £bns on building a bigger factory that can produce the same number of cars in fewer hours so that workers don’t have to work on Sunday evening? Or should liberals decide that this sort of thing should be decided between management and workers? If govt doesn’t intervene to “protect” JLR workers, who does it intervene to “protect” shop workers? Or vice versa?

    (And yes, I usually reply to students who email me as soon as I get their emails, whatever day of the week it is, and usually when I am on holiday as well. I write lectures and mark exams on all days as well.)

  • “Should liberals tell JLR to spend £bns on building a bigger factory that can produce the same number of cars in fewer hours so that workers don’t have to work on Sunday evening? Or should liberals decide that this sort of thing should be decided between management and workers?”

    And another thing – should liberals really be telling us that we should be spending more money on cleaning the same number of chimneys so that children don’t have to go up them? Or should liberals decide that this sort of thing should be decided between management and workers?

  • Richard Dean 16th Aug '12 - 1:20am

    Good point, Tim. Your correction is well received.

    But the answers to your questions are not obvious, Surely there is indeed a role for government to play in helping to safeguard worker’s rights against unfair pressures from investors? That requires international cooperation too, particularly European, because of the ability of investors to switch to other countries. My impression is that the present government is just giving up on these important issues, and unions aren’t able to help either.

    Isn’t this kind of thing is exactly what can cause a recession? The persuit of industrial efficiency above all else means that fewer people are employed, which in turn means that investors can demand that people accept lower wages, which means that people don’t have the money to buy, which means banks have to lend to poor countries to take up the over-production, which results in catastrophes like Greece.

    Of course the demand for psychoanalysts of all kinds might increase, but do we want that? Maybe things would be better all round if we valued quality of life a little bit more, and industrial efficiency a little bit less?

  • @ Richard Dean

    To add to Tim’s point I used to work in Factories on a sunday, I have worked in an office on sundays. Farmers do farm on Sundays (cows have to be milked, other animaks have to be checked upon), Busses, trains and taxies do run on sundays the different service is due to demand not a need to “protect” workers.

    I worked in a shop full hours on a sunday as well (when doing night filling work) the only restriction the current English laws place is on selling.

  • Trevor Stables 16th Aug '12 - 8:24am

    Small Businesses are the engine of the economy and are much neglected by the Govt, big cororations get most of the attention and have tax experts to minimise the tax payable! You are wide off the mark and Vince Cable is right to do whatever he can to support small businesses. We had a chip shop for 10 years, employed 10 people, paid all our dues in tax and VAT and so did our staff – happily it is the Lib Dems who are taking a lot of employees out of paying tax altogether which will boost local economies. Time to do more for small businneses not ander to big predators!

  • Kris King – “What is so important that any entire work / life balance needs to be upset just so you can shop at 6pm on a Sunday instead of getting there by 3pm ?” Well, I might be a nurse, or other health worker, or a train driver, or a bus driver, or a swimming pool attendant … perhaps we should ban all work on Sundays?

  • John Carlisle 16th Aug '12 - 9:41am

    Well, that discussion certainly gave Vince and Nick a good steer!

  • Robert Carruthers 16th Aug '12 - 10:26am

    As someone who writes about retailing for a living I really must protest against this naive assumption that deregulation will somehow create growth. It will not. It will simply reallocate existing spending power to those whose business model is best suited to longer trading hours – namely multiple retailers.

    The spread of multiple retailers to the exclusion of independent operators is one of the key elements of the hollowing out of local economies. Multiple retailers may be very efficient when viewed at a national level, but at a local level, they suck demand out of economies that would otherwise be recirculated in the form of salaries earned by business owners. Why does the author think it is that other European countries like Italy have much more attractive, lively town centres than we do and lack the dreadful “clone town” phenomenon that blights so much of the UK nowadays? Even in a depression, most Italian town centres have more economic life in them and offer a much more attractive shopping environment than many in the UK did even in the midst of the pre-2008 boom.

    I am not against multiple retailers – they are clearly very good at satisfying many customers’ needs – but retailing is a vital part of the ecosystem of any town or city’s economy and any ecosystem is best managed by maintaining diversity and balance. Creating a free for all on opening hours will make independents’ lives even more difficult in terms of operating costs and staffing and simply shift even more spending power towards multiple retailers.

    The analysis presented here is frankly the kind of naive “market ideology” and economic Darwinism that would be expected from the Tories rather than the nuanced, balanced and frankly more intelligent approach of the Lib Dems.

  • A number of posters here have advanced the argument that changes to the opening hours on Sundays would be “anti-family” and/or “you only have the same amount of money to spend, so increasing the opening hours is irrelevant”.

    But those arguments should apply equally on Saturdays also, shouldn’t they? Or even Monday to Friday – it really isn’t “pro-Family” to have the kids in after-school clubs while parents are at work, is it?

    Once, we accept that then the case becomes “Why should Sunday be special?” and a case needs to be made for a “special day” which might mean we allow certain businesses to open longer (bookshops, cafes) and others not at all (DIY stores).

    Either way, I’d favour giving local councils to set the opening hours (for all days) at local level based on local demand & need.

  • Richard Dean 16th Aug '12 - 12:06pm

    @LiberalEye. Why would you allow the stores to choose for themselves? Why not get the customers to choose? Or the local people?

  • The perspective to take should be that of the employee, not the shopper. A solution might be to say that no retail outlet should operate more than 6 days out of any 7, and treat all days of the week the same. That might have a positive effect on public transport at weekends.
    Another approach to the domination of the big supermarkets might be to limit what they are permitted to sell. What if they were not allowed to sell anything that needed a specific product license or had an age restriction, that would make life easier for the people working in supermarkets, currently having some product lines governed by various specific legislation and others not, and would create a market niche for small operators to sell those goods. It would be better for the regulation of those lines too, if controls are needed on particular goods then the control is going to be more reliable at a smaller outlet than a large one. . and easier to enforce.

  • Theo makes a good argument, but misunderstands a couple of points in his first paragraph..
    On some issues our policies may align with those of the Tories, but our philosophies are very very different:
    Both parties believe in the strength of the free market, but for quite different reasons.

  • I agree with Liberal Eye, Robert and many others above. I am now even more convinced that further “deregulation” of the Sunday trading law would be harmful to most ordinary people and to the economy as a whole. The current law is probably the best compromise in the circumstances. In particular, the law ensures:-
    1.Those with religious beliefs can follow their principles while others can enjoy some family, social or recreational life thus enabling a reasonable work/life balance.
    2.Small businesses are able to compete whilst larger businesses do not feel pressured to open for longer hours at the expense of increased costs and no weekly increase in footfall. Consumers are still likely to spend the same amount per week!
    3.Employees should not feel pressurised to work on Sundays. Some firms would inevitably refuse to recruit people who are reluctant to work every Sunday.
    I cant help but think that some of our “Orange Book Tendency” should get in touch with the real world and get their heads out of the Economic Theory text books!

  • @ Richard Dean & Liberal Eye

    I am concerned that you regard this as only in the interests of “Big Business” the freedom that you seem to consider not to value is the freedom of shop workers who DO want to work on Sundays. In the past I have worked in retail only able to work weekends and would like to have been able to work a greater number of hours on a Sunday.

    I notice there is an assumption in many posts that no one wants to work on a Sunday and assume everyone shares your arrangements and preferences. As has been stated above the only restriction on Sunday opening now is the ability to sell in larger stores for 6 hours. Stacking shelves, taking deliveries goes on 24/7, Factories, farms, offices, security, hospitality, transport operate 7 days a week as does retail in small shops. Your arguments if applied consistently suggest that none of this should be tolerated a return to a truly puritan view – or do the employees in these forms of employment not matter?

    The other assumption here seems to be only considering the impact in food retail. DIY stores have restricted opening on days when most DIY will be done. If something breaks and you can’t get to the DIY shop before 4 then tough. These weird anomalies are a result of an illiberal law, something we should all object too.

    The concern should the rights of workers not to be forced to work, a better approach would be to concentrate on forming a method of ensuring that workers are free to choose whether to work or not without being forced. Restrictions on freedoms (yes freedom to work is one of those) should be for a clear purpose and done in the simplest and most effective way, not by defending a law that was out dated as soon as it was passed.

  • Yellow Bill 17th Aug '12 - 7:42pm

    I always thought that Liberals only believed in regulation when it was needed to protect individual rights. Which is why the Sunday trading laws need to stay in place in their present form.

    Allow unregulated Sunday trading and workers will be coersed into working on a Sunday, no matter what the law says. Cable is right on this issue

  • Richard Swales 19th Aug '12 - 12:17pm

    @Theo
    As you have seen, the definition of “liberal” used by most members leaves “liberalizing Sunday trading” defined as cutting back the amount of time shops are allowed to be open on Sundays, possibly to zero. They don’t recognize any limits to the proper use of government force if something can be argued to be in the wider public interest (and remember Sunday trading regulation is ultimately only possible if you have a government willing to use it’s boots, fists and guns to enforce it). Unfortunately there is no party whose members recognize those limits.

    I would really invite those who believe in the government’s right to restrict trade in this way, to state what they think the minimum sentence should be for selling a pint of milk on a Sunday morning.

  • Richard Dean 19th Aug '12 - 1:21pm

    A fine equal to the price paid for the milk?

  • @Liberal Eye,
    thanks, I agree there is a qualitative difference between ‘open’ and ‘free’ markets, and it’s very useful to explore the distinction.

    It’s also easy to create confusion – a ‘free’ market is a passive description, and is therefore one which may be free of regulations, or it may also be be one which is free of biases. On the other hand an ‘open’ market takes an active perspective against undesirable restrictive practises – avoiding the politically unhelpful misinterpretation.

    I’d also say the process of opening up markets makes them freer, while – conversely – designating what a free market is and seeking to impose this dogma is ultimately naive and self-defeating, as past results show it will close down areas of the market, achieving the opposite end than that which liberals intend.

    By simply deregulating Sunday trading without ensuring sufficient checks and balances are in place the big corporates can use their position to negatively influence the competitiveness of the industry by leveraging their power – as the ubiquitous supermarket chains have already done by expanding into convenience stores and financial products etc.

    Access is a significant factor. Since any reforms wouldn’t be working from a blank slate the current status of market players therefore must be taken into account.

    We need to ask who we’re trying to help – if we’re colour-blind about it we could easily help corporations by harming consumers.

    More choice is great, but not if it’s more of the same choice.

  • @Tim Leunig
    To make a comparison between Tesco and JLR is unhelpful unless it is comparing like with like – both have shops and both have factory production lines, the former is an external market built around public custom, while the latter is an internal market dealing exclusively with contracted employees and suppliers.

    Each type of market functions differently so we need to apply our principles more appropriately. Maybe you could adjust your example to car showrooms instead.

    I personally think it would be better to tailor trading conditions, including by taking into account the location and size of each establishment.

    It seems obvious that a retail park, a town centre and a corner shop will function and operate differently, so why shouldn’t this be reflected in the law?

  • @Theo Clifford
    “With the recent fragility of the Coalition, it’s easy to forget that the Lib Dems do agree with the Tories on some issues.”

    Err, disagree. The principles of different parties are not necessarily inconsistent with each other – it depends entirely on how they are applied, which depends on finding coherent rhetorical and linguistic constructs to make and combine the arguments.

    Frankly, while not incorrect, yours was not overly helpful.

  • @ Liberal Eye

    Apologies, I should have been clearer. My comment was directed at your comment that the post only was concerned with freedom for “big corporations” by the very nature of big corporations benefit some and disadvantage others. So an extra freedom for a big corporation is likely to result in some people benefiting and others loosing.

    @Yellow Bill

    I detect an assumption in many posts a dislike of this policy due to the possibility that some big companies may benefit. Your very conservative attitude seems odd, just because the current law exists doesn’t mean it is good. As stated above current laws don’t provide any protection to people who work in offices, factories, hospitality, cleaning, security or small retailers. It also by your argument doesn’t protect those who work in large retailers for slightly over 6 hours.

    However if the law were to state that Sunday working were to be optional and it was illegal to force someone to work then all people are protected and there is not a problem with restricting the shopping public’s choice, or those large retail employees who would prefer to be able to work extra hours on a Sunday.

    @ Theo
    I don’t think you will see very much growth if any in the statistics generated by abolishing the current laws but that is not a reason against that course of action.

    The claims above about the same spend spread over a longer period are misleading, My ability to buy a new bathroom light at 7 on a Sunday evening as I blew up the last one has a positive impact on me as I can get on and fix it and use the bathroom as normal. Alternatively I have to wait until the next weekend to buy one and fit it making do the rest of the week with table lamps in the bathroom.

    Both transactions show up in GDP statistics as the same, the unrestricted Sunday trading option gives me greater utility. So I suggest not relying on the government stats economic argument and focus on the freedom argument.

  • Richard Swales 19th Aug '12 - 9:33pm

    PSI “So I suggest not relying on the government stats economic argument and focus on the freedom argument.”

    I think you have to focus on the freedom arguments. People who rely on “expedience” arguments (free market economies tend to have a better standard of living for all than centrally-planned ones, legalising cannabis can cut the link to harder drugs and bring in taxes etc. etc.) to support freedom actually make poor advocates for freedom. The reason is that if freedom is an end in itself, then it should be the front and centre argument and it doesn’t need to be justified by, and come almost as a by-product of, or be conditional upon, winning some kind of arguments about how, coincidentally, we will all be better off if we don’t try to improve the choices of others.

  • Richard Dean 19th Aug '12 - 9:50pm

    I see no way that deregulating Sunday trading can produce growth.

    Growth is may be measured in terms of consumption, but what it’s about is production. Sunday shopping doesn’t increase either of them. The bottleneck in consumption is not access to shops, nor indeed is it the quantity or quality or range of what is available. The bottleneck is being able to afford to buy.

    To be able to afford more, it seems to me that ether prices need to go down or the amount of money available to buyers needs to go up. Three ways for a government to make more money available for purchases are:

    1. to increase employment
    2. to increase government spending
    3. to allow banks to lend people more

    The present government seems to be doing none of these. It’s reducing its spending by cutting staff, and it’s hyping the bad effects of debt so much that household debtors are discouraged from borrowing. Some parts of the private sector are fighting back, by attempting to increase employment. It is only as a result of this fightback that the unemployment figures have not increased to mainland European levels.

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 23rd Sep - 12:46am
    Roger Lake, you do indeed have a bee in your bonnet, but to me UBI is a far weaker policy than many that our party...
  • User AvatarRoss McLean 23rd Sep - 12:34am
    I agree with John Grout. That speech by Naimh was memorable.
  • User AvatarMichael BG 22nd Sep - 11:51pm
    Bill le Breton, Kingston was a second tier target seat in 1997. So they received some outside support but members were not encouraged to go...
  • User Avatarfrankie 22nd Sep - 11:47pm
    Well Roger they have their first major Brexit test, getting the Thomas Cook tourists home. Now I know the Brexi's and Lexi's will wail tis...
  • User AvatarRoger Lake 22nd Sep - 11:10pm
    If we expect an election very soon, perhaps we should be looking forward to the next one, in 2024, perhaps? It looks quite possible that...
  • User AvatarJohn Grout 22nd Sep - 10:57pm
    I think Niamh O'Connell's standout speech from the Europe debate deserves a place in the list of favourites, among the speeches that actually happened. I...
Thu 10th Oct 2019