A Church of England bishop has responded to the government’s latest bid to extend Sunday trading hours in large shops by warning Christians will be “pressured” into taking shifts then.
Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Dr Alan Smith, was unconvinced by the government’s promise that staff could ‘opt out’ of working Sunday when the legislation passes.
Ministers want to let local councils extend trading hours for large stores in their area from the current restrictions of six hours.
Business Secretary Sajid Javid announced on Tuesday that the government would amend the Enterprise Bill to devolve the extension of Sunday trading hours.
He said Christians would only have to give one month’s notice to their employers that they did not wish to work on Sunday or work extra hours.
Bishop Alan said: “Our current Sunday trading laws are built on a compromise, which a majority of the public still back.
“We have not seen any evidence that further liberalisation of Sunday trading will bring any tangible economic benefit, with the most likely outcome being the same money spent over a greater period of time.
“We know that over half of shop workers in large stores already feel pressure to work on Sundays and an increase in opening hours will only lead to more people being pressured into spending Sunday apart from their children and families.
“This can only be damaging to community and family life and erode opportunities for shared time and activity, which is central to human flourishing and the common good.
“It is also disappointing that these measures will be introduced to Parliament in a Bill that has already been through the House of Lords. That means that the opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny and revision of these proposals will be severely restricted.”
A number of Conservative Christian MPs have threatened to revolt against the government meaning the bill could fail to pass. Premier