Following an announcement in the Summer Budget, the government has launched a consultation on the devolution of powers in Sunday trading
On 5th August, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, (BIS) and the Department of Communities and Local Government, (DCLG), launched the expected Consultation on devolving Sunday trading rules. The Executive Summary states:
“The current Sunday trading rules were established over 20 years ago in the Sunday Trading Act 1994 (‘the 1994 Act’).They limit the opening hours of large stores (those with a relevant floor area over 280 square metres / 3,000 square feet) to 6 hours on a Sunday. Smaller stores can open all day. But in the 20 years since the 1994 Act the internet has come of age and consumers can now order goods online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Internet sales now account for 11.5 per cent of all retail sales compared to just 2.8 per cent nearly a decade ago when this data was first collected, with the value of internet retail sales averaging £734 million a week in May 2015.”
The rationale for the proposed change is:
“Extending Sunday trading rules is estimated to result in benefits equivalent to £1.4 billion per year. Extending Sunday trading hours would improve productivity by freeing retailers to make better use of large stores, allowing them to sell more without a proportionate increase in costs.”
“Devolving Sunday trading rules would offer consumers more choice about when to shop locally, offer businesses more flexibility on opening hours, and offer shop workers more opportunity to work on Sundays. Extending shopping hours would mean that consumers would have access to a wide range of products from large stores and would be able to shop in those stores earlier or later in the day than at present. A study by the London School of Economics, which compared the effects of a extending Sunday trading hours in a number of European countries, found that the amount people spent on non-durable retail products, such as food, rose by up to 12.5 per cent following deregulation.”
“Consistent with its focus on localism, the Government believes that local areas should have the opportunity to decide for themselves what the right approach to Sunday trading is in their area.”
Against these views the Consultation notes “there are strong and diverse views as to whether removing Sunday trading restrictions is the right thing to do,” and “”some people may oppose any changes, for example, because they consider Sundays to be special.
The Government is consulting on two options for devolving Sunday trading rules locally:
- devolving powers to local areas, for example to metro mayors, through ‘devolution deals’; and/or
- devolving powers to Local Authorities more generally across England and Wales.
It is not proposed to change the rules relating to:
- Sunday Trading on Easter Sunday nor trading on Christmas Day;
- Protection of workers’ rights under the Employment Rights Act 1996, “other than that which might be required to ensure the same level of protection applies following any amendment to the current Sunday trading restrictions”;
- Provisions within the 1994 Act which impose restrictions on loading and unloading of vehicles at large stores situated in a loading control area before 9am on a Sunday. However, “consent can be obtained from the local authority to load and unload before this time”;
- Existing restrictions on opening hours of individual premises imposed through planning permissions. “These would also remain in place, unless the local authority decided to permit a change”.
Sunday trading is devolved to Scotland and transferred to Northern Ireland. The 1994 Act applies to England and Wales and the proposals in the consultation relate only to England and Wales
Respondent are requested to indicate which, from a list of options, best describes them, e.g. Business representative organisation/trade body; Central Government; Charity or social enterprise; Individual; Large business (over 250 staff); Legal representative; Local Government; Medium business (50 to 250 staff); Micro business (up to 9 staff); Religious organisation; Small business (10 to 49 staff); Trade union or staff association; and Other.
The questions are:
Question 1: Should local areas have the power to extend trading hours on Sunday? Y/N/Not sure.
Question 2: If the power is devolved, who do you think should be given the power to change Sunday trading rules? Elected metro mayors as part of ‘devolution deals’/ All local authorities/Not sure.
Question 3: How would you be impacted by local changes to Sunday trading rules? Positively – the changes would benefit me/ Negatively – the changes would cause me problems/ No difference.
Importantly, this question adds “Please provide evidence.”
Question 4: Where did you hear about this consultation?
Whilst the Consultation states the commercial and other advantages of the proposed changes, its consideration of the potential disadvantages receive less attention. Yet as the leader in Church Times on 10 July pointed out :
“There are no new arguments about Sunday trading. Relaxing the restrictions on supermarkets and larger stores will mean longer working hours, more congestion, fewer small shops, less time that shop workers can spend with their families, and yet more of the nation’s time given over to acquiring things. These harmful effects were the reasons that commercial pressure from large retail corporations has been resisted until now — and should be still. The new ‘evidence’ to support George Osborne’s tilt at Sundays is apparently a 3.2-per-cent rise in retail sales in London when restrictions were slackened during the 2012 Olympics”.
Furthermore, it contradicts the pre-election assurances made “on behalf of the Prime Minister” to the Keep Sunday Special Campaign on 20 April 2015, which stated:
“I can assure you that we have no current plans to relax the Sunday trading laws. We believe that the current system provides a reasonable balance between those who wish to see more opportunity to shop in large stores on a Sunday, and those who would like to see further restrictions.”
Links to the responses of religious and other organizations will be added as they become available. Nick Baines’ blog states that according to the Daily Telegraph, the Minister for Local Government is to write to the bishops of the Church of England asking them to support longer Sunday trading hours. This letter will say:
“The government has been determined to revive our nation’s high streets to ensure they remain the heartbeat of our communities for decades to come. High streets provide the social, cultural and essential services so many local people enjoy and rely on.”
However it seems unlikely that the position of the Church of England on Sunday trading will change from that in its Press Release Church opposes any move to extend Sunday trading hours, published on 11 April 2006 in response to an earlier consultation on the subject.
A summary of the initial comments on the consultation has been made in our post Sunday Trading – comments, updates and links.