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Sunday Trading and Shops Act
#1
The Sunday Trading and Shops Act

An Act to reform the law relating to Sunday trading and to give shops the freedom to determine their own opening hours, while protecting the rights of employees


Be it enacted by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:


Section 1: Basic provisions

1. All shops, regardless of size, location or type are permitted to determine their own opening hours without interference from government or local authorities.

2. All restrictions on the sale of certain type of goods in shops on certain days, or between certain times, are hereby abolished.

3. This Act shall not be construed to apply to Public Houses or other premises licensed for the consumption of alcohol.


Section 2: Local Acts

1. The Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument:

a. Repeal any provision of a local Act passed before or in the same Session as this Act if it appears to him that the provision is inconsistent with or has become unnecessary in consequence of any provision of this Act, and

b. Amend any provision of such a local Act if it appears to him that the provision requires amendment in consequence of any provision of this Act or any repeal made by virtue of paragraph (a) above.

2. It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State, before he makes an order under subsection (1) above repealing or amending any provision of a local Act, to consult each local authority which he considers would be affected by the repeal or amendment of that provision.


Section 3: Protection of workers

1. For retail workers on existing contracts that do not already specify Sunday scheduling, Sunday working shall be voluntary; workers must agree, in writing, to Sunday scheduling. This agreement can be revoked in writing so long as the employee remains under a contract agreed to before this act came into force.

2. No worker on an existing contract that does not already specify Sunday scheduling shall be forced or intimidated into changing that contract or into agreeing contract changes against their will. Nor may employers discriminate, in any way, against existing workers who decline to agree to Sunday scheduling.

4. The above provisions do not apply to new contracts agreed after this act comes into force.

5. All other employment laws and regulations remain in force for Sunday working as they do for work conducted at any other time.


Section 4: Repeal of Acts

1. The 1950 Shops Act is hereby repealed in its entirety.

2. All sections of other Acts, which stand in contradiction of these measures are hereby repealed.


Section 5: Enactment

1. The provisions of this Act to become law on approval of Her Majesty The Queen.



Madam Speaker

I am introducing this bill as I believe that our Sunday trading laws are outdated and unfit for a modern consumer economy. I hope that the government will make time for it and work with me to see it enacted into law.

My view has always been that shoppers should be free to choose when to shop and that stores should be free to open when they wish. It is extraordinarily anachronistic for government to mandate that retail outlets be closed on Sundays and equally illogical when other services such as restaurants or public houses are already permitted to open.

Freeing retailers from restrictions will likely provide a boost to local economies, but that is not the primary reason for the legislation. The main reason is one of freedom: to allow people more scope to shop when they wish and for companies to open at the times which best suit them and their customers. 

In making these changes I have been very conscious of the need to protect retail workers. No one wishes to see new shift patterns forced on existing employees; that would be unfair. As such, I have built provisions into the legislation to account for this. Of course, some workers might actually value the opportunity to boost their earning potential by taking on extra hours on a Sunday. They are currently denied this opportunity and this new law would make it possible for them to enhance their wages.

Madam Speaker, I see this act as part of a necessary modernization of our laws as we respond to the rapid changes in how people are choosing to live their lives.
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Mrs. Margo Leadbetter
Home Secretary and Secretary of State for DEFRA
Conservative MP for Surbiton
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#2
Madam Speaker, please move to Second Reading.
Prime Minister John Kenneth Masters, MP for Torbay
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#3
ORDER! Second Reading!
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#4
Madam Speaker

I am grateful to the government for making time for this bill.

I already spoke in broad terms when I introduced the legislation. However, I wanted to address two specific points which, I know, are a cause for concern among some Honorable and Right Honorable members.

The first relates to the principle that Sunday should be a day of rest. Some advocate this on religious grounds, others because of social reasons. I have sympathy with both views. However, in social terms many other services already trade on a Sunday. This includes restaurants, public houses, entertainment venues, hotels, and so forth. As such, extending the same privilege to retail does not seem unreasonable. In any case, some people wish to use their leisure time on a Sunday to go shopping, whether it be out of necessity or for pleasure. To me, it seems wrong to deprive them of that opportunity.

The religious argument is important. However, those who hold such convictions should remember that not everyone shares them. There are many of different religious, and those of none at all, for whom Sunday is an ordinary day.

This brings me onto my second point, Madam Speaker. The people most impacted by this change are the workers who operate retail stores. I am conscious that none of these individuals should be forced to work against their will. Nor do I want them to be made to act against their religious persuasions. That is why I included worker protection within the legislation

Madam Speaker, in my mind this legislation is fair. It does not force anyone to work or shop if they do not wish to do so. However, it provides more freedom for those who would like to work or consume on Sundays.
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Mrs. Margo Leadbetter
Home Secretary and Secretary of State for DEFRA
Conservative MP for Surbiton
Reply
#5
Madame Speaker,

While I commend the honourable lady for her activism on behalf of the backbenches, I nevertheless regret that the one bill she got time for continues the trend started by Margaret Thatcher in full force. I hear her arguments and I marvel at the fact that she, as a member of her party, calls a time-honoured institution "outdated" and proposes to take the hatchet to it to make way for the market. She is indeed a credit to the legacy of her party's former leader.

I see her offer no argumentation for why this is outdated, except to make way for shops. I have to take it, then, that this economic motivation is the mainstay of her argument. And I ask this House, Madame Speaker, the question begged by all this which is: are we really now an economy with a nation, or a nation with an economy? Is that the only thing that matters now? The gain and convenience of the 24-hour economy that never sleeps? Is this really the kind of Britain we want to live in?

You do not have to be Christian to appreciate the value of that one day a week when there's time to relax and do what matters to you, to express your values in your community and your family or, indeed, the value of some well-deserved rest. Sunday is one day of the week, at least, devoted to the community rather than the ever-increasing demands of commerce. And I think that's an invaluable part of the social fabric of communities up and down this country that we cannot afford to take the sledgehammer to in the name of cold economic efficiency.

My eldest, Martha, is now 10. When we enter the new millennium, she'll no doubt be on the lookout for a job on the side, and I'll let her because I think it's a valuable experience. I want her to grow up in a country where we value work but not to the exclusion of all the other values that are important. I want her to grow up in a country where she can afford to take the time out to appreciate all the other things that are important in life, from her first side job next to school or university all the way to starting her own family. And I think a Sunday's rest is very helpful in that regard. It sends the message that this is something we value in our society.

For this reason, I appeal to members on all sides of the house who care about communities: do not support this bill. It would continue us down the road to unravel the social fabric of this country in the name of economic efficiency. That would, as the experience of the past decade shows, be the wrong way to go.
Emily Greenwood MP | Labour MP for Workington (1992-present)
Shadow SoS for Education and Employment, Health and Social Security (1994-present)
Reply
#6
Hear! Hear!
Max Power, Labour
MP for Oxford East (1987-present)
Shadow Foreign Secretary (1994-present)
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#7
Madam Speaker

I thank the Honorable Member for Workington for her kind comments. We both agree that backbench activity and contributions are vital.

The Honorable Lady makes some interesting points. However, I must take issue with her analysis. Our high streets are an integral part of the social fabric of our nation; they are not separate from it. On Saturdays we already see families and friends enjoying a day of shopping – which often includes socializing over a coffee or a meal. Shopping isn’t just a sterilized commercial activity; it provides a chance to engage and connect with others in a meaningful way. For many it is a form of relaxation and pleasure.

Most importantly, Madam Speaker, as I have already indicated, this legislation does not force people into acting against their preferences. Those who do not wish to shop will not be frog marched to the nearest store. And nor will those employees who don’t wish to work be forced to do so.

The point is this: just as the Honorable Lady, and others, are free to exercise their preferences so should they allow others who wish to shop to exercise theirs.
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Mrs. Margo Leadbetter
Home Secretary and Secretary of State for DEFRA
Conservative MP for Surbiton
Reply
#8
Madam Speaker,

Sunday is a day of rest, and I strongly believe that it should be kept so. I understand that the Hon. Lady believes that her bill will protect workers who do not wish to work on a Sunday, however I am fearful that refusing to work on a Sunday, whilst it cannot be used as an outright reason for firing somebody, it could be used, underhandedly, to pass people over for promotion, pay rises, and so on.

I am fearful that this bill could end up being used as for not hiring somebody who is a Christian, as the employer would know from the outset that they would not work on Sundays.

It isn't just Christians who the current laws protects, it is families, and I fear that this bill will only be the start of a process that will end up treating a Sunday as just another day, and in the future, this bill could easily be amended to make Sunday a normal day if one's company opens. We can stop that now by never allowing Sunday Trading in the first place.

However, whilst this Act is called the Sunday Trading and Shops Act, it goes much further. This allows any shop of any size to open whenever they want - including late at night, or very early in the morning, or even 24 hours a day. The protections only apply to a Sunday. Why is this?

I also would like to ask the Hon. Lady the member for Surbiton, if she is worried about the potential availability of alcoholic products being available at any time of day or night, even on a Sunday?
Reply
#9
Madam Speaker,

I am most grateful to hear the comments of the Right Honorable Gentleman, the Home Secretary. He and I are of the same mind on this bill. The fact is, while we are not as church-going as we once were, at the same time, we are not a thoroughly secular society, and nor are we just a collection of individuals with material desires. We have already retreated in the face of secular and materialist ideology many times over the years, where our individual pleasures and the drive of capital have washed over the boundaries of faith and family. Is such change inevitable? Will it carry all before it? Time will tell. But I say to this House, here and now, that I oppose this latest effort to make the space for faith and family even smaller than it is now, and I will with all respect to the Honorable Lady opposite, who I do respect, that I will vote against this bill and urge my colleagues in every party to do likewise.
Max Power, Labour
MP for Oxford East (1987-present)
Shadow Foreign Secretary (1994-present)
Reply
#10
Madame Speaker,

As somebody who enjoys her Saturday shopping with friends and family as much as the next person, I do sympathise with the honourable lady's arguments, but she will not be surprised that I do not share them. It also has nothing to do with the fact that I prefer my Sunday to be involved with, say, a walk on the fells with my husband and kids, family dinner and of course attending church.

I wonder if she has considered that it's not as easy as codifying that nobody will be forced to work. I should hope so! Or indeed, by repeating the patent ad absurdum that nobody will be marched to the shops and forced to shop! I should most certainly hope so! The problem with this bill is that it does not, indeed it cannot, mitigate the pernicious effects of competition on the voluntary nature of working on a Sunday. The bill protects existing workers, but it does nothing - indeed it specifically excludes - protections for new workers. It explicitly gives a mandate to employers to force their workers to work Sundays by not hiring them if they don't. For the people in this sector, that is a significant surrender of the liberties the honourable lady says she wants to protect.

And what to think of the employers themselves? Shops that open on Sundays have, want it or not, a significant competitive advantage. This may not be a problem to large chain stores, but to the local small and medium businesses that give life to many high streets and local economies in general, that will be a problem. They may not be able to find the staff, or possibly even the energy, to devote 7 days of the week to keeping the store open. That puts them at a disadvantage, and the decision not to open on Sundays will, I fear, come at a prohibitive cost in competition, especially compared to larger businesses which do not have that particular consideration. With all the sound and fury about allowing shops to open, are we not forgetting that there's also a right to stay closed that might not survive the cold efficiency of the unbridled market?

I am afraid the honourable lady is on an ideological crusade, but I urge her to reconsider what removing Sunday's rest from the law of the land into the law of the market is the right way to go.
Emily Greenwood MP | Labour MP for Workington (1992-present)
Shadow SoS for Education and Employment, Health and Social Security (1994-present)
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