Opinion: Scrap Sunday trading laws to boost the high street and the economy

SundaysAfter yet another mad dash with the family around the shops last Sunday afternoon I read with great interest that members of the All Party Parliamentary Retail Group have recently tabled amendments to the Deregulation Bill currently going through Parliament to remove restrictions on Sunday trading and the launch of a new consumer-led campaign group to lobby MP’s to support these proposals.

Introduced in 1994, the limited Sunday opening hours for shops over 280 square metres were designed to protect local convenience shops from the bigger supermarkets. Fast forward 20 years with the major supermarkets now also dominating the convenience sector, this protection is outdated and is actually harming local high streets. Footfall in town centres on Sundays is reduced due to the shorter hours meaning many high street shops don’t bother opening at all, with families heading to out of town shopping centres instead.

Scrapping these laws could give a big boost to the recovery, a 2006 study concluded it could provide an economic boost of over £20bn over the next 20 years, and during the Olympics when Sunday trading was relaxed in some areas retail sales increased by 3.2%. Sunday wages usually carry an increased rate of pay and with many workers currently on part time and short hours contracts it could provide additional income to thousands of families across the country.

Of course religious views should be taken into account with this liberalisation and our existing employment laws already ensure people cannot be compelled to work on Sundays.  Scotland has had unregulated Sunday trading hours for years combined with a legal right for workers to refuse Sunday work for whatever reason.

Scrapping Sunday trading laws would mean more sales for retailers, more people in work, more revenue for the government and more choice for families to spend their time as they wish at the weekend. Let’s support the campaign to finally remove this outdated and unnecessary restriction on work and family life, giving a much needed boost to the local high street.

* Gareth Wilson is a Videogame Director turned Liberal Democrat activist who blogs here

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61 Comments

  • Hear, hear.

  • No, sorry, this simply does not add up logically in any way.

    The amount of spending money households have is fixed by their incomes, plus or minus borrowing or saving. So how can it “boost” the economy to spread spending across longer hours of trading? In any case, the UK’s problem is excessive consumption and lack of saving, so on that basis it will make things worse, making our recovery even more unbalanced and unsustainable.

    Even the chairman of John Lewis says this is a bad idea. Let’s not give in to an idea that is solely being driven by lobbying of larger format store operators.

    There is no need for this change whatsoever.

  • What RC and H Tedcastle said. The author appears to be one who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

  • Rabi Martins 8th May '14 - 11:14am

    I couldn’t disagree more with Gareth Wilson’s assertion that unrestricted Sunday Trading will result in more time for families to spend as they wish

    No single measure has had a greater adverse impact on the families of low paid working class people than the introduction of Sunday Trading laws.

    Gareth makes a big deal about the fact that the law allows workers to refuse to work on Sundays But what he ignores is that at a time when unemployment is high mostworkers have hobson’s choice – work the hours the shops open or say goodbye to any prospects of promotion or worse risk the job being given to someone else. This sitituation has got worse recently with the advent of Zero Hour Contracts
    By making Sunday working the norm Sunday working is no longer regarded as working on a holiday so employees are NOT entitled to overtime rates

    Then there are tthe unintended cosequences of making Sundays “normal” working days I contend that the introduction of Sunday Trading has done more to damage the family unit than any other emasure of recent times. Time was when Sundays were used by families to visit and keep the family bond going Now the only families who can afford to do this are the well off – many of whom are the business owners – The very people who like Gareth want to reduce the family time these poor workers have even further

    And have you noticed how towns across the country now enforce Parking Restrictions on Sundays and Bank Holidays This is another measure that makes it difficult for families and friends to visit each other at week-ends

    I say NO to extending Sunday Trading There is more to living then earning money and shopping It is called socialising with family and friends Everyone needs to be given the time to do this without pressure from employers or through a guilty feeeling brought on my the need to earn more money to keep up with the rising costs of living

  • Helen Tadcastle

    “On Sundays in my area, families walk in the park, relax with friends and enjoy a day with less bustle. There is a sense of community because quite a few do it – not just on their individual day off – it’s a generally shared experience.”

    We do that on Saturdays as well. And the opening of shops don’t seem to impact on that at all.

  • David Evans 8th May '14 - 12:10pm

    Psi – I’m sure you do. However, that doesn’t mean that everybody can. Just because you can quote a personal exception doesn’t disprove Helen’s important point.

  • Helen, I personally think it is a very valuable thing that some places and times are protected from the cult of ceaseless consumption, so I agree with you totally.

    The wider point is, our whole UK economic model has been built on consumption and borrowing, with devastating consequences for our economic stability, social fabric and longer term prosperity.

    We have got to wean ourselves off this addiction to spending money we don’t have. This proposal would move us further in the wrong direction.

  • Poor old Scotland, knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.

    It’s a shame to see some in my party who constantly act illiberally. The best way to create better wages and better working conditions is to expand the number of jobs there are and make employers compete for employees, not vice versa.

  • Richard Shaw 8th May '14 - 12:53pm

    I agree with Gareth and disagree with much that has been said above in the comments. I would like no restrictions on opening hours at all. One of the most annoying things I find is that, as someone who works full-time 9-5 Monday to Friday (as well as being a ‘full-time’ campaigner in my ‘spare’ time) is that I have to be damn quick getting out of work and into town if I need something as most of the high street shops are closed by half 5.

    Contrary to what RC said above, unrestricted opening hours would not spread my spend over more days, it would allow me to actually spend my money in the first place, without being forced to buy online. High street retailers complain about being killed off by out of town retail parks and online shopping – I say they also share the blame and should adapt their opening hours to be when people are actually available to go shopping, e.g. staying open until at least 6 or 7pm.

    Helen Tadcastle, Rabi Martins et al., suggest that we need to restrict opening hours on Sundays to ‘protect’ families from being forced to go shopping and so that they have a rest. Well, I believe we have free will and the fact that a shop is open does not compel me to go spend money. They’re open Monday to Saturday and yet instead of being lured in and trapped, I go home or go canvassing or do something else. Sometimes I don’t do anything, saving my energy for doing stuff at the weekend. I don’t need the State or anyone else telling me how or when I should ‘rest’. Furthermore, their argument has been nullified in any case by the emergence of 24/7 online shopping, which as I mention, has probably benefited from these trading hours at the expense of our high streets.

    To those worried about shops being open 24/7 – there is a cost to being open, both in terms of staffing and running costs so I expect retailers would have their opening hours to suit when there is trade to be had.

  • Helen Tadcastle

    “It’s a question of whether Sunday should become just like any other day of the week, with no day set aside for rest. Of course, this time has already been eaten into. That doesn’t mean that the rest of it should be eroded on utilitarian grounds. Shop workers have families too.”

    I disagree that this is the question, the question is whether the “day of rest” has to be standardised. It could be offered that worked have a compulsory day of rest which they can nominate to be any day of the week. This is a liberal solution as it allows shop workers to choose Saturday as a day that they can be safe from being made to work if that is more appropriate for them, or Wednesday if it really matters. Other religions have different days of rest why not allow them to nominate that.

    Most people will probably still opt for Sundays and as a result it will probably not change much. Particularly I imagine it has more to do with the fact that is the day before most people will go back to work. The Scottish example illustrates this.

    Restricting the choice of others to negotiate their days off work is not exactly enhancing the “freedom from conformity” for the UK public. Better to move to a greater choice model and increase freedom than stick where we are.

    As a side point, I don’t believe the economic benefit will be as much as stated, but I support a more liberal approach to people being able to choose their “day of rest” to the current historic accident.

  • David Evans

    Parks don’t normally contain out of town shopping areas (unless we are using differnt definitions of “park”) and I imagine peoepl don’t “relax with friends” on their highstreet surounded by the closed shops. In which case the activities listed are things people do away from shopping areas, in which case the shops being open would have no impact.

    Fear of change is not a argument for against it.

    If you can explain why a shop being open on the high streen would cause chaos and disruption in a park, in a differnt area, then you probably need to think again.

  • Rabi Martins 8th May '14 - 1:25pm

    @Richard – So you are quite happy to work just 9 to 5 Monday to Friday and enjoy doing what you want Saturdays and Sundays but equally happy to deny shop workers some quality time with family and friends even on a Sunday or part of a Sunday as is currently the case for most shop workers
    Then we wonder why society has become so fragmented and why ever increasing number of our young people are growing up with little regard for the family and the community
    There is much more to life than making money and spending money – and it is time we started protecting it

    And Richard (and others who fear being deprived of shopping opportunties) – there is no need for you to rush to the shops after work . You have the whole of Saturday to do your proper shopping and your local shop / 24 hour super markets for emergency shopping

  • Helen

    “other’s perspective ie: shop workers, whose right to a family life is eroded by Sunday trading.”

    Not, if the fixed day was changed to a day nominated by the indovidual. What about those who want it to be Saturday, or Wednesday?

  • Have people considered the effect of Sunday hours on part time workers, either school kids or students who do shop work part time? Allows them to work without impacting unduly on their studies as they don’t have to work and study the same day.

    Works perfectly well in Scotland.

  • Thanks for all the comments so far, I know this is an emotive issue for some so I’ll try to tread carefully 🙂

    Psi / Helen / Rabi et Al

    I think I could agree with some of your points 20 or 30 years ago but the reality is society has changed so much since then. In our ‘always on’ 24hr society its bizarre to me that I can get my shopping delivered to my house on Sunday evening or pick up a ‘Click & Collect’ item from Tesco on Sunday morning but not be allowed into the store. There’s a strange situation at the Trafford Centre where you can go in the shops an hour before but not buy anything.

    With the Sunday horse already bolted I’d like the freedom to choose what I do with that day. I remember reading somewhere (apologies can’t find the source) that 75% of people shop on a Sunday at least once a month. It’d be great for me to do our shopping super early so I have the rest of the day for hobbies/family, or much later when they’ve gone to bed. I’m not going to spend 12 hours at the Trafford Centre with my children if the Sunday laws were relaxed, I can’t think of anything worse!

    More broadly though, as Richard said as a Liberal I don’t think the state should be dictating to me when I should ‘rest’ and this ties in with Psi’s point about the right to a nominated ‘rest day’ every week. From memory I think that may be enshrined in EU legislation already (I’m sure someone more knowledgeable can correct me).

  • @Thomas Long

    “It’s a shame to see some in my party who constantly act illiberally.”

    Please don’t presume to have a monopoly on what is “liberal” or not.

    There’s a distinction between “freedom to” do things and “freedom from” things. In this case freedom to shop whenever and wherever you want conflicts with freedom from encroachment on family life and leisure time, freedom from high streets dominated by larger retailers (who are favoured by this proposal, which is why they alone are lobbying for it) and freedom from debt and excessive consumption. A liberal interpretation of freedom has two sides and the Liberal Democrats do not exist solely to allow the interests of private enterprise to extend their dominion over our every waking hour.

    @ Richard Shaw

    “Contrary to what RC said above, unrestricted opening hours would not spread my spend over more days, it would allow me to actually spend my money in the first place, without being forced to buy online. ”

    You’ve just contradicted yourself there, haven’t you? No-one is “stopping” you from spending your money i.e. forcing you to save it. There are six and a half days a week in which to buy from the shops. And no-one is “forcing” you to buy online, but if you do, you’ve spent it, rather than saving it. Either you’re doing one or the other.

    The UK needs an economy built on saving more and reducing the present inherent bias towards overspending and excessive consumer spending the moment the economy shows any signs of life is a good thing, just like we need to ween ourselves off housing booms and other forms of unbalanced growth.

    This proposal is still irrelevant to and possibly harmful to the UK’s longer term economic and social interests.

  • Kay Kirkham 8th May '14 - 1:46pm

    There is no logical reason why retail opening hours should be determined in law. It is a historic, Christian hangover which has not moved on with the way people actually live their lives or with the religious practises of other faiths. The legislative stitch up which resulted in large garden centres not being open on Easter Sunday is particularly ludicrous. The liberal solution is to let people chose when to shop and the market to chose whether it is financially advantageous to open on any particular day or particular time, subject to reasonable protection for workers and local residents.

  • Gareth,

    I would hope you couls agree with my points now not just 20 years ago. A nominated day over a fixed one is more appropriate.

    “In our ‘always on’ 24hr society its bizarre to me that I can get my shopping delivered to my house on Sunday evening or pick up a ‘Click & Collect’ item from Tesco on Sunday morning but not be allowed into the store.”

    You can be expected to work in a warehouse (apparently the most common job in Britain) all week end or work in a supermarket provided you are not “selling” (so restacking shelves etc). Which makes more of a mockery of the current system.

    I have done shop work and warehouse work and mochj more of my time was in warehouses (due ot their being more jobs there). This whole debate feels like shadow boxing, the status quo that is being defenced seems detached from reality.

  • @ PSI

    Yes absolutely I would, apologies if my post was unclear 🙂

    I agree with you having also done shop work in the past , on a Sunday we’d restock for an hour or so before and after the shop was open anyway. I also found if I was working Sundays it pretty much screwed up my plans for that day – once the traveling was taken into account I was out of the house from 9-6 and when I did get home everywhere was shut!! I would have much rather done 2 or 3 hours extra and got the extra Sunday pay.

  • Scotland seems to have survived the deregulation of Sunday trading laws. Here in Aberdeen our parks seem just as full of families on Sunday as on Saturday. Many other people in different industries have to work on Sundays and it may actually suit people to have days off during the week. It does seem odd that it remains such a contentious issue south of the border.

  • I meant to add that the lack of general regulation in Scotland does mean that in areas where religious observance is seen as paramount as in the Western Isles then many services not just retail are not available.

    And I believe there is no restriction in Scotland on shops opening on Easter Sunday and Christmas Day if they wish to.

  • I really struggle to understand how extending Sunday trading will erode family life. Oh, I know all the arguments but those same arguments were made when the law was changed to allow Sunday trading and I don’t see that family life has been damaged in our society as a result. You could even argue that on Sundays in the days when no shops were open, there were more family arguments as people felt there was ‘nothing to do’ and were forced to spend time together. In our family we have had shift work in the caring professions, ever since I can remember and we’ve no problem with working hard no matter what day f the week – we’ve always been glad to be in work at all. . We are still strong as a family. It’s not which day you spend togetherbut what you do in the time you have together and how you feel about each other. People need to rid themselves of rigid positions and think more flexibly. Some LDs are really very ‘conservative’ ‘ in their views!

  • “Sunday is the chosen day because of the consent of a society which regarded itself as Christian”

    I have no idea how this consent was asked for or given. I don’t remember a referendum on this…. ? Wasn’t it the case that the Establishment decided this because it was in the Bible that God rested on Sunday and us plebs just went along with it?

  • Phyllis

    Actually God rested on Saturday, hence that being the Jewish day of rest, I can’t ermember why Christians changed it to Sunday. But you are right, it was a religious decision.

  • Richard Dean 8th May '14 - 3:29pm

    I am as puzzled as RC about how this can possibly add up. To my mind, Sunday trading just means that some of the trading that was done on other days will be done on Sunday instead.

    Also, prices will go up because staff will need to be employed an extra day – perhaps good for their pockets but not all want it. Prices going up mean people consume less goods for the same money, so in that sense will be poorer. GDP corrected for inflation will therefore reduce., and savers will lose out.

    But then, I’m often wrong. Exactly HOW did the 2006 study get to its conclusions? Is there any evidence? And is a pre-crash (pre-credit crunch) study relevant to a post-crash (credit restricted) now?

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 8th May '14 - 3:49pm

    Many of the comments in opposition to liberalisation of Sunday trading seem to forget that many shop workers already work on Sundays – it’s just that a proportion of shops can only sell things for a set number of hours.

    There is also a lack of recognition (perhaps having not worked in retail) that opening hours do not correlate to working hours. People are already working regular hours on Sundays even where there is a restriction on opening hours, it’s just that for some of the day there will be no customers (so there will be restocking etc taking place).

    A comment above refers to 24hr opening. Of course it is quiet during the night, and thinking that through a little more would highlight that the reason supermarkets open 24hrs is not because of massive customer demand but because staff need to work through to night anyway to prepare for the next day – so they may as well open to customers.

  • Hi Richard,

    The 2006 report can be read here – http://www.indepen.uk.com/docs/sunday_trading_cba.pdf – its a big ol read but to summarise the benefits to the economy can be sumarised as

    1 – The big one is reduced unit costs for retailers as the capital of the store locations would be used more efficiently
    2 – Benefits from reduced congestion at stores from longer opening (smaller queues, less peak road traffic etc).
    3 – Benefits from being to co-ordinate shopping trips (if all shops are open at the same time I can do everything in one go)

    They do go on to state that at a macro level it may reduce new stores opening for a few years as the existing demand could be better serviced by the existing shops. The big benefit to the economy though would be the more efficient use of the existing store capital.

  • Richard Dean 8th May '14 - 4:00pm

    Thanks Gareth.

    1 seems obviously wrong. If the same amount of goods are shifted per week whether there’s Sunday trading or not, then there’s no gain in capital utilization over any period that is significant for capital utilization. The capital and the utilization is the same on a week, month, year, or decade long basis, independently of whether there is SUnday trading or not.

    2 seems arguable, except that I find queues on Sunday!

    3 seems obviously wrong, since it also applies to Saturday, and may even not apply as well on Sunday since the opening hours are shorter

  • “It will erode the family lives of shop workers – mainly women – first and foremost. If these women have children, their children will be affected”

    In my family we have worked weekends and shift patterns all our lives. It can help the family a lot as it means the care-giver who is at home Monday to Friday can work at the weekend, bringing in much needed money and enabling that person to work. Of course there should be laws to protect shop workers so people who don’t want to work don’t have to. In a University library where I worked, we had dedicated weekend-only staff who chose to work on Sat or Sundays. Taking your logic, we would have to close that library at weekends, and also many other places of work such as museums etc which are open at weekends. How does that help ‘the poor’ ?

  • Richard Wingfield 8th May '14 - 5:37pm

    My starting point on this debate is whether the state should stop consenting people from carrying out commercial transactions. If a shop wants to sell me goods and I want to buy them, why should the state prohibit us from carrying out the transaction simply because it’s a Sunday? From that perspective, I fully support liberalisation of the trading laws. The market (i.e. us) should decide when we want to shop, not the state.

    Now I do accept that there is a risk that some shop-workers may be pressured into working Sundays, however I think this risk is over-stated. As has been noted, millions of people already work Sundays. Many in shops, but others in hotels, restaurants, cinemas and all of the other places that people use on Sundays. I can’t see how shop-workers are in a different position to anyone else who might work on a Sunday. The only logical conclusion is that no-one should work at all on a Sunday (except for emergency services, perhaps) which would mean all hotels, restaurants, bars and everything else closed entirely for Sundays. I don’t think that’s sensible.

    Risks to employers being pressurised into working on Sundays can be remedied by provisions in any legislation which state that no employee can be compelled to work on a Sunday, nor victimised or in any way treated less favourably should the opt out from working on a Sunday. The Employment Rights Act 1996 already contains such provisions. Ultimately, it’s a matter or freedom of choice. Subject to sufficient safeguards, liberalisation of trading hours would increase freedom of choice for consumers and so I think it’s a good thing.

  • @ Richard Dean

    I think its hard to argue the store capital wouldn’t being used more efficiently. If you’ve got a store open 24hrs versus a store open 8hrs everything else being equal the longer opening store will service more customers. This means fixed costs like business rates and the like will be less per sale. Take that to its logical conclusion and the same amount of sales could be serviced by less shops that are open longer, which is why the report suggests the rate of new stores opening could slow a bit. However, longer opening on Sunday would mean less substitution to online sales and more of those sales happening in- store so that needs taking into account too..

    Of course the companies would have to decide if the additional variable costs of being open longer makes sense at each store, but overall the report predicts there would be a big benefit to the economy. A lot of moving parts though so I’m sure you could make a pretty valid argument either way. For me I agree with the reports findings.

    The coordinated shopping trip argument they put forward makes sense to me, as shops choose to use their 8 hours on the Sunday at different times. On the retail park near me B&Q opens at 10 and shuts at 4, the George at 11 and closes at 6, leaving only 5 hours to shop at both stores in one trip.

    @ Phyllis – your point about weekend only workers is a good one. When I was going through Uni I worked exclusively late evenings and weekends, I would have really appreciated being able to work the extra hours on the Sunday..

  • Richard Dean 8th May '14 - 6:11pm

    Capital utilization = Capital divided by weekly income

    Capital: same capital needed whether Sunday opening or not (though operating costs higher)
    Weekly income: same income whether Sunday opening or not, because same customers with same needs and same cash

    Result: Capital utilization same whether Sunday opening or not

  • the Liberal Democrats do not exist solely to allow the interests of private enterprise to extend their dominion over our every waking hour. …

    Absolutely agree except the party is increasingly full of such people who if they actually had to experience the net result themselves of their ‘liberal’ economic polices they would run a mile screaming. Hence we have the cheek of demanding that people work in shops all hours so that someone else can come home from their 9-5 job and have lots more time for shopping. No wonder this party is losing votes if that is a common viewpoint and sentiment.

  • Chris Manners 8th May '14 - 6:36pm

    “Scrapping Sunday trading laws would mean more sales for retailers, more people in work, more revenue for the government and more choice for families to spend their time as they wish at the weekend.”

    Unless the family are working in shops.

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 8th May '14 - 7:06pm

    @ Helen Tedcastle

    ” it means limited working hours , as we have now .”

    We don’t have limited working hours; we have limited trading hours.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 8th May '14 - 10:47pm

    For all of those advocating that Sundays be kept special for traditional/family/religious reasons, I have a question. Do you use electricity/gas that day? How about the phone or the internet? Maybe you listen to the radio or watch a bit of telly, maybe you use public transport to visit a friend or relative in hospital, maybe you go for a drive, stopping to fill up with fuel along the way. There are so many people who already have to work on Sundays just to facilitate your lifestyle that saying that any restrictions on other activities should be held is just hypocrisy. Or maybe you believe that we all should have a Sunday off, sitting at home in the dark, unable to cook a meal or turn a tap on!

  • Chris Manners 8th May '14 - 11:54pm

    @ Graham Martin-Royle

    “maybe you use public transport to visit a friend or relative in hospital”

    You got me there! I’ll have to agree to shops to open all hours otherwise I’m exposed as a stinking hypocrite.

  • “There are so many people who already have to work on Sundays just to facilitate your lifestyle that saying that any restrictions on other activities should be held is just hypocrisy.”

    Exactly. In our family people have been working weekends/shifts/Christmas/Bank Holidays for several generations. Taxi drivers,cinema staff, restaurants , transport staff, motorway services etc etc as well as staff in pubs, hospitals, paramedics, ambulance workers, library and museum staff etc.

    I’m not a particular fan of shopping but I just don’t see why shop workers are a special case when people work long hours on Sundays in so many other sectors. For people who need to work on Sundays for personal reasons (say their partner works most weekends as a paramedic/police officer/bar staff etc so they are alone at home most weekends) it just gives them more choice. Instead of working in a library or a restaurant until 10pm on a Sunday they could work in a shop. They can then have a day off inthe week when their partner is off. Of course there needs to be protection for workers who don’t want to work Sundays that they should not be forced to do so.

  • Please let’s have one day a week when shops close early it wasn’t susessful during the summer of 2012 when shops opened longer give the shop workers a break please

  • Sunday trading laws are illiberal and arbitrary. There are plenty of jobs that require Sunday work, why is the retail sector a special case? All it does is prevent people from being able to spend their time as they wish. Particularly those who work long hours six days a week, Sunday is the only practical time to go shopping. I’ve lived in Scotland for a few years now, and not having to plan my Sunday around these stupid laws is one of the best things about it. If employment law needs beefing up then let’s do that too, but that really is a separate issue.

  • Why are people queuing up to support this proposal when it is only being led by a small group of powerful, large retailers and not even all of them?

    No-one has yet advanced any reason as to how it would really “boost” the economy. By definition, it can’t, it can only shift around the money that would be spent anyway.

    This idea really is irrelevant to securing sustainable, balanced growth for the UK economy.

  • andrew purches 9th May '14 - 10:01am

    heaven forbid that this proposal should come about: RC is quite right, and I would go further and argue that retail is currently the scourge of all those who have to work in the business,for low wages, excessive hours, and with the exception of John Lewis Partnership employees, little or no option to anything else than be a slave to the system. There are few enough restrictions in place to protect shop workers from exploitation, and the activities of the retail trade add up to creating a major proportion of our trade imbalance with the rest of the world, even if the products being imported are be bought for peanuts. Look to the French for a lead here, Sunday mornings for supermarket food and household needs, and bakers for bread, with traders generally reopening from Monday p.m. onwards. During the week,as with most of Europe,high street shops are open until the early evening,between six and seven on average, and,as with France again, heavy trucks ( seven tonnes and upwards,are forbidden on the roads from midnight saturday until midnight Sunday. This in itself makes Sunday trading somewhat impractical. Retail is basically dishonest and devoid of any sense of obligation, except to the proprietors bottom line.

  • I would have thought that a day of rest was better than profiteering

  • ACGN

    “I would have thought that a day of rest was better than profiteering”

    Do you understand what profiteering is?

    A hint, it is not just trading and making a profit.

  • Helen Tadcastle

    “If one starts from the assumption that having a day of rest is really an historic accident rather than a communal benefit then I can see why individuals choosing their own personal day of rest would be appealing.”
    “I don’t regard Sunday as an accident. It is a great advantage to our quality of life as communities and a society.”

    I disagree, you are defending a common day of rest, not just a day of rest. As Phyllis points out there are many people for whom Sunday is not the most convenient day to have the “day of rest.” The existence of a day of rest is not an accident the fact it is Sunday is.

    As a society we have the norm that the weekend is a time of rest when most people will try and arrange their social interaction with friends and family. That is not devalued by Saturday allowing shopping. Sundays are quieter still but I believe that has more to do with it being (for most people) the day before everyone goes back to work and most of the chores (like shopping) will have been done on Saturday.

    Most people I know are not huge shopping fans and would spend less than 3 hours on a weekend doing the weekly shop and picking up the bits and pieces they need, I can’t see how if hours were extended anyone would choose to sacrifice time with their friends for time shopping.

    “It depends how you see society. Are we simply small units of individuals and families doing our own thing or is there such a thing as a community and shared experiences? Is there such a thing as society? I have always understood Liberal Democrats to be supporters of the concept of community and society, not rampant individualists.”

    Well we are clearly more than small units and we are a part of communities but we also each chose different levels of involvement in those communities. To insist all people working in Retail have their week structured a particular way because other people think a change would damage the “feel” of Sunday seem overly prescriptive. Communities are not something you should be forced to interact with they are groupings most people would like to choose the method of interaction with.

    As I have said above the economic argument is a red herring, I doubt the figures (probably some methodological flaws) and freeing employees to choose their “day of rest” should not be about economic activity but personal choice to arrange your life in the way that gives you the best you can.

    I think your fear of Sunday becoming frantic shopping days is misplaced. As other above said (when disputing the economic argument) there is likely to be a similar amount of money people are wanting to spend, in the same way there is likely to be a set amount of time people want to spend trudging around shops in an option (as many shops may still not choose to open) to shop more will not create an increase in demand from people to spend more hours doing, what is in effect, a chore.

  • Helen Tedcastle

    “The weekend that we have now was fought for by the trades unions in the early part of the twentieth century. Before that, workers worked six days a week and had Sunday off to go to chapel or Church. The idea behind the campaign for more leisure time was that there is more to life than work, work, work.”

    And economic thought provides a good argument for why the expansion of leisure time, and potential for further expansion further as we develop. I once worked for a firm that did 4.5 days as standard and know at least one firm that did alternating 5 the 4 day weeks (though these were high end engineering). As we increase productivity from “survival work” that we do to live the more will look to substitute other activity from the surplus.

    What was previously demanded and fought for will gradually be given by individual negotiation, though it will take much longer periods of time for it to evolve.

    “The funny thing is that the Germans do not trade on a Sunday and yet have a very productive economy. Perhaps they have not yet lost the concept of a communal sharing of experience that we’re in danger of losing here if the economic liberals and neo-cons had their way.”

    And Germany actually has very restrictive rules around other activity on Sundays much of it driven by religious history, I don’t see that as offering “freedom from conformity” to those in society who may want to live differently from me (I wouldn’t be uncomfortable living in that system).

    “it seems that some economic liberals and libertarians think we don’t work hard enough and don’t have time to shop enough, so we need to relax trading law. It’s the classic Victorian work-ethic without the concept of one day of rest. After all these people argue, Asia is racing ahead and they work all the hours of the day and night – we need to copy their cultures to keep up. Also, the principle of no work on Sunday has already been eroded, so why not erode it still further?”

    Only the economically illiterate would argue that a person working longer hours is more productive, what matters is the output per input (i.e. per hour). I think the interpretation of this argument is misunderstood. The west cannot emulate the Developing world as they are in the low labour cost phase of development and so far behind in absolute terms (hence how they can be ahead in relative change terms).

    I think the point that is being made and miscommunicated is a potential future positions (when the absolute positions are similar and their leisure time has increased to match ours). A historic comparison would be UK and German Ship building after WW2, Germany had to totally rebuild and therefore had improved machinery, the UK initially benefited from having existing (old) machinery so was able to take advantage of greater demand while Germany rebuilt but it became unresponsive with out of date capital stock once Germany was back up and producing.

    Surely what we should look to protect is the benefit people receive but allowing people flexibility to tailor it to their needs such as being able to choose which day of rest they would like, rather than standardise it.

  • David Evans 9th May '14 - 10:53pm

    I am old enough to remember the theories that technology would improve our efficiency so much, we would need to be educated to use our increased leisure time. Of course what happened was the mobile phone made it so much easier for our bosses to get hold of us at any time, and work time actually increased for most people.

  • David Evans

    Using the 1960’s expectations of what would happen in a couple of decades is not the best way to judge the longer term changes.

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