Prime Minister David Cameron has defended government plans to alter Sunday trading laws, despite the fact that no governmental research into the issue has been commissioned since 2006.
Small Business Minister Anna Soubry admitted to parliament that the last research into the potential impact of Sunday trading de-regulation was done in 2006. At the time, the Department for Trade and Industry concluded that it was unwise to change laws on Sunday trading hours.
Prior to his election, the Prime Minister had a negative stance on de-regulation.
“I think the House should look carefully at this idea not least because our constituents are able to shop online all-day everyday including on Sundays,” Cameron said, speaking on Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions. “All the evidence shows this will be welcomed by customers, will create more jobs and I think we have nothing to be scared of by moving into this new arrangement.”
Understandably, a number of groups, such as Keep Sunday Special and the Association of Convenience Stores, have locked onto this lack of research and voiced their opposition
“For the government to attempt to justify its decision to change Sunday trading laws with research that led to a previous government retaining the rules is just absurd,” said Chief Executive of the Association of Convenience Stores James Lowman.
“There is a wealth of new evidence that shows consumers don‘t want change, that the proposals would damage small shops and would harm high streets when local authorities favour out of town locations over centres.
These proposals are nothing more than an ideological pet project from the Chancellor and should be voted down in the Enterprise Bill next week.”
Having said that, there have been real and significant changes since 2006. Unlike the Department for Trade and Industry at the time, the government today is faced with a profoundly digital landscape. Far more customers shop online, and in recent years there have been great improvements in delivery options and platform accessibility; online sales made in the UK from portable devices just overtook those made on computers for the first time.
At the same time, it is unknown if more weekly opening hours would be enough to bring customers back from their computers to the high street.