The last couple of weeks has seen the Government forced into two high profile U-turns. The first forced Boris Johnson to scrap the planned hiking of the NHS surcharge to health and care workers from non-EU countries after fierce questioning from Sir Kier Starmer. The second saw the Conservative’s crumble under mounting public pressure and a high profile campaign led by England striker Marcus Rashford to provide free school meals for vulnerable children over the summer holiday’s.
Flying under the radar though was the shelving of the Government’s plan to relax the Sunday Trading Laws. The Sunday Trading Act of 1994 allows large stores to open for no more than six consecutive hours between 10 am and 6 pm. Boris Johnson had planned to ditch this legislation as part of a coronavirus recovery bill.
Luke Pollard MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport said:
“There is no good reason for Downing Street to attempt to force through a change to the Sunday Trading laws. The current law enjoys public and cross-party support. There should be much more critical things on the Prime Ministers to-do list than this.
Those key workers, such as retail staff and shopworkers, are the hidden heroes who have kept our economy moving throughout the current pandemic. This crisis has brought to light who the key workers in our society are. It is because of their bravery and sacrifice that we will begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is, therefore, worrying that the Government was going to undermine this effort by forcing these people to work more hours, putting extra strain on them during these unprecedented times.
Although I welcome this decision, it should not take political pressure from the Labour Party and public outcry for the Government to do the right thing. The Government should have used this opportunity to support retail workers further in return for the crucial efforts they have made in recent months, not attempt to enforce misguided changes that would simply put them under even greater pressure.
Small shops and our high streets would be hit hardest by these plans, putting their future viability in peril. We have some fantastic independent stores in Plymouth, and we want to see them succeed. However, analysis has shown that extending Sunday Trading Hours would displace weekly sales from these local shops to supermarkets, which could further impact the future of high street and small shops.
We must support our economy and tackle the effects this crisis has had on it. I will continue to support efforts to do so. However, I do not believe allowing large shops to open for longer on Sundays is the right way to go about this.
There are a small number of supermarkets and a small group of right-wing Conservatives who want to see the end of Sunday Trading Laws altogether. Although they have been defeated this time they will, I am sure, try again. So we must maintain our resolve against these proposals, and that is what I intend to do.”