Christian lobbyists say Sunday trading proposals could harm family life

Christian campaigners are making a final plea to stop the Government lifting restrictions on Sunday trading.

In the summer budget, the government announced its intention of relaxing the Sunday trading laws to allow larger stores to remain open all day on Sunday. The Government's subsequent consultation on the proposals closes tomorrow and CARE are among numerous Christian lobbying groups to oppose the changes.

"The government cannot devolve their responsibility to uphold and protect the family," said CARE CEO, Nola Leach.

"They made it clear all policy proposals would be subjected to a family test, in order to guard against policies that might otherwise undermine family life but clearly that was not the case with the plans to extend Sunday Trading."

In his budget speech on 8 July, the Chancellor George Osborne said the proposed changes were part of helping local economies grow.

"To give more power to counties and to our new mayors, we are going to give them the power to set the Sunday trading hours in their areas," he said.

The Government estimates that relaxing Sunday trading rules would "result in benefits equivalent to £1.4 billion per year."

However Leach said the positive benefits were outweighed by the negatives.

"Time-off in common is a vital concept and one that society desperately needs," she said.

"The strain on families in our modern society is already enormous and whatever the government might say, expanding trading hours for some shops will only increase that pressure."

Christian Concern are another group lobbying to oppose the changes. They argue that, while the changes would allow more choice and flexibility, it would come at the expense of others.

"The changes would hit the poorest the hardest," their statement read. "Those in greatest need of work would likely come under greatest pressure to work, whatever the cost to family life or their own wellbeing."

Current laws in the Sunday Trading Act (1994) limit the opening times of large stores (over 280 square metres) to six hours on a Sunday. The government's proposal would allow large stores to remain open all day on Sunday but would not apply to Easter Sunday or Christmas Day restrictions.

Both groups encouraged their supporters to respond to the Government's consultation and oppose the changes.