The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Caroline Spelman MP, spoke in opposition to the Government’s proposal to extend Sunday trading hours to larger retailers in the House of Commons.
Citing a report published by Oxford Economics, Caroline argued that the total annual loss to UK could reach £870 million in sales for all types of convenience stores and, that small businesses faced a net loss of 3,270 retail jobs in England and Wales.
The Second Church Estates commissioner further argued that extended hours risk eroding Sunday, traditionally seen as a day of leisure, and raised a number of concerns presented to her by local convenience store owners in the North of Solihull who advised that they would be unable to compete with larger retailers should the changes go through.
In addition to the strong economic argument presented by Caroline and a number of MPs from all sides of the House, the extension of Sunday Trading hours was opposed by a number of faith groups, including the Church of England, who said: ‘an increase in opening hours will only lead to more people being pressured into spending Sunday apart from their children and families.’
Despite her opposition to the extension of Sunday Trading, The Second Church Estates Commissioner acknowledged reports of a potential economic benefits to the UK, but said that we should not compromise on the issue which risks harming small retailers and family owned/operated stores.
One of a number of MPs who submitted amendments in opposition, Caroline’s amendment proposed measured changes to the current law through the devolution of powers to local authorities on the condition that extended hours would only be enforced within tourist zones during the months March-October and in December.
Speaking about the proposals Caroline said: ‘I am prepared to concede that we need to remain competitive as a country which is why I looked to find an alternative approach to the issue of Sunday trading’.
‘My amendment, essentially replicated the French Government’s approached to getting the most out of extended trading hours and sought devolve powers to local authorities to designate areas where Sunday trading may be extended in ‘tourist zones’ during seasonal and peak shopping periods’.
‘This model would allow us to remain competitive, but would limit the impact that the additional hours would have on families up and down the UK. In essence, it would allow us to make shops more accessible in the areas where they would be of greatest benefit to our economy, without putting too much pressure on workers and small businesses who may struggle to compete with nearby, standalone larger stores or retail parks’.
Following much debate in the House of Commons the motion to extend Sunday trading was defeated by MPs who voted 317 to 286.
Read Caroline’s contribution to the debate here:
Watch a recording of the debate online (you may require a TV Licenece):