Photo: Harrods Department Store, London

PQRM Committee Letter to MPs on Enterprise Bill

Date: Tuesday, 08 March 2016
Author: Rev David M Blunt

(The letter copied below was sent to all MPs by Rev David Blunt on behalf of the Church's Public Questions, Religion & Morals Committee. Government amendments to the Enterprise Bill currently going through Parliament would further liberalise Sunday trading laws in England and Wales, with possible repercussions for Scotland.)

22nd February 2016

Dear Member of Parliament,

Enterprise Bill

We write to raise an issue which may be voted on at some point during the passage of the Enterprise Bill, which is due to begin its Report Stage in the House of Commons very soon.

The issue which concerns us is the Government’s planned amendments to the Bill concerning Sunday trading hours. These amendments, which mirror the plans in the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill which were dropped last November, would give local councils or elected mayors the power to extend Sunday trading hours within their area. These amendments are being proposed despite an assurance having been given prior to the general election that the Conservative Party had “no current plans to relax the Sunday trading laws.”

Below we indicate briefly the main reasons why we oppose such amendments:

1) While these amendments would apply only to England and Wales we are of the view that if they are put into effect then UK-wide companies with outlets in Scotland will make use of the change to place further pressure on their employees in Scotland to work on Sundays, despite this being against the wishes of many of them. If shops open for longer hours on Sundays then this would affect not only retail staff but also people who work in such areas as security, cleaning, distribution and transport.

2) We note that the amendments do not include giving local councils or elected mayors the power to restrict Sunday trading hours for their area if they wish to do so – something we would expect if this was truly an exercise in devolution and democracy. Our fear is that these plans are just another step in the creeping secularisation of our nation, the effect of which is to divorce our society from the biblical moral values which shaped it and to lead us further and further into the emptiness and hopelessness of a crass materialism. It is shameful that the Government, which ought to be upholding and defending our Christian heritage, is instead busy undermining it.

3) The most important reason of all for opposing these amendments is that Sunday, which in the Bible is called the Lord’s day or Sabbath, is not a day for commercial activities but a day for rest and worship. The fourth commandment says: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8) The changes in view would make it even more difficult for the people affected to attend church and spend time with their families. Buying and selling should be strictly confined to the six days of the week which God gave us for such things: to pursue these things on the Sabbath is to desecrate what God has made holy and to incur His displeasure. 

For these and other reasons we ask you to attend the debates on the Bill and to vote against any amendments which would have the effect of further extending Sunday trading hours.

Yours sincerely,

Rev. David Blunt (Convener)