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“The Conservative Government suffered a humiliating defeat last night,“ said Nia Griffith MP, “as a result of their failure to take into consideration the views of all those affected by their proposals to allow a chaotic free-for-all on the extension of Sunday trading hours. No wonder we saw rebel Tory MPs voting with us against these proposals”

“I’d ike to thank all those who contacted me on this matter, and stress that I have been a firm opponent of extending Sunday trading hours for the following reasons: firstly, the economic arguments are not very convincing as the amount of money we have to spend remains the same; secondly, and most importantly, I am very worried about the effect on workers; thirdly it would have a detrimental effect on our corner shops; and fourthly, I still believe that there is a case for keeping Sunday special.”

“I attach below the speech I made last time a similar proposal came before Parliament.”

Nia Griffith MP – Speech against extending Sunday trading hours

I will vote against proposals to extend Sunday trading hours for three reasons: first, the economic arguments are not very convincing; secondly, and most importantly, I am very worried about the effect on workers; and thirdly, I still believe that there is a case for keeping Sunday special.

People have a finite amount of money to spend, particularly as this Government seem incapable of finding a growth strategy and are letting us slide back into recession. We are seeing displacement trade, with the same amount of spending being spread over more hours, and we are likely to see big stores drawing away yet more trade from local convenience stores, as the hon. Member for South Dorset (Richard Drax) said. I am disappointed that he seems incapable of voting against the Bill even though he talked about people who may lose their livelihoods in his constituency because they depend on the times when an awful lot of people use convenience stores because none of the big supermarkets is open, particularly on Sundays from about 4 pm to 9 or 10 pm. The danger of extending Sunday opening hours for the big stores is that it will have a very detrimental effect on small convenience stores. In the past, supermarkets have driven people out through loss leaders, whether it was fishmongers because they had bargains on their fish counters or the local music shop because their popular items were available in the bigger type of store. In the same way, this summer some local stores may close because eight weeks is too long for them to do without the trade that they have usually been getting.

Of course, life has changed and we have far longer shop opening hours than 50 years ago, and we accept that emergency workers have to do some Sunday shifts. However, Sunday is a day when children are not at school but at home. Many workers do not work on Sunday, so it is a time for families to be together and for parents to spend valuable time with their children. The majority of shop workers are women on low incomes, and if stores are open for longer on Sunday, there will be pressure on them to do more of their hours on Sunday. They will not get more hours; rather, instead of doing them on weekdays, they will be asked to do them on Sundays, cutting down on the time they have to spend with their families and children. Many of those women will walk to work because there is no transport on Sunday, particularly very early in the morning or late in the evening, and that raises huge issues regarding their safety. It is bad enough walking when it is for a 10 am start and a 4 pm finish, but if it is much earlier or later, there are far greater implications for safety.

It is all very well to say that such working will be voluntary, but it will never be voluntary. People will feel pressurised into working, that their promotion chances are damaged and that it is not fair on their fellow workers if they opt out of working on a Sunday. The idea that such working is voluntary is nonsensical for many reasons.

Last but not least, there is keeping Sunday special. Times have changed since my childhood, when the chores were finished by Saturday afternoon, and Sunday was a day when we certainly did not play cards or do any household tasks—people would never be seen washing the car or digging the garden. Families do lots of different things now, but Sunday is a time for worship, contemplation and reflection—time to take off from the working week. As many hon. Members have said, for the mental health of our nation, it is extremely important to have that break, and a day that is a little different from the rest of the working week. That is another reason for my firm opposition to extending Sunday opening hours.