Sunday is the second busiest shopping day of the week
By Tim Ross, Senior Political Correspondent
10:00PM GMT 27 Feb 2016
Plans to allow large shops to open for longer on Sundays will damage family life and do nothing to boost the economy, an unprecedented alliance of Christian leaders warns today.
For the first time, senior Roman Catholic, Church of England, Church in Wales, Methodist, United Reform Church and Salvation Army figures issue a joint statement opposing the government’s plan to relax Sunday trading laws.
In a world of increasing commodification the space for shared time and activities, central to human flourishing, is becoming increasingly rare
Letter from six faith leaders
In a letter to The Telegraph, the six faith organisations warn that plans to let large chain stores open for longer hours would increase the “commodification” modern life.
Shop workers and customers will have less time to spend with their families and small local stores will suffer a loss of business, they say.
The warning comes after ministers announced they would give local councils in England and Wales the power to allow large retailers in their area to open for longer, in measures contained in the Enterprise Bill, which is passing through Parliament.
Under current rules, small shops can open whenever they want, but on Sundays, larger stores are restricted to a maximum of six hours in the period between 10am and 6pm.
Sajid Javid, the Business Secretary, said relaxing the restrictions would enable local authorities to “help struggling High Streets”.
He has faced opposition from traditionalist Tory MPs and faith leaders have spoken out individually.
But the letter to the Telegraph marks the first time since the plans were announced that the leaders of the country’s major Christian denominations have joined forces to voice their opposition.
The letter is signed by the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Rev Alan Smith, who is the Church of England’s spokesman on economic affairs; the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Southwark, the Most Rev Peter Smith; the Archbishop of Wales, the Most Rev Dr Barry Morgan, and Methodist, United Reform Church and Salvation Army leaders.
“As leaders of Christian communities England and Wales, we oppose the government’s plans to further deregulate Sunday Trading laws,” they write.
“We are concerned that the further deregulation of Sunday Trading laws is likely to disrupt the rhythms of community life that are so integral to the common good. In a world of increasing commodification the space for shared time and activities, central to human flourishing, is becoming increasingly rare. Needlessly extending Sunday opening hours will only exacerbate this trend.”