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UK News

Sunday trading laws could be relaxed for 1 year to stimulate economy, senior bishop originally wanted few weeks

by Tola Mbakwe

Sunday trading laws could be suspended for a year under Government plans to stimulate the economy amid the coronavirus crisis.

Downing Street is said to be drawing up legislation to enable larger supermarkets to open for more than six hours on Sundays, according to The Times.

Last month, when supermarket bosses were urging the government to relax the Sunday Trading Act, Dr Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans told Premier he would be fine with relaxing Sunday trading rules if it was only for a few weeks. 

"I'm very clear that both in the scriptures and for the sake of society, the crucial message is keep Sunday special and I've always argued that I'm very passionate about it.

"I guess the only questions coming up at the moment is in these unbelievably, unusual, difficult times, is whether there's any case for perhaps a very temporary lessening of the rules just for a few weeks."

Bishop Alan, who speaks on behalf of the Church in the House of Lords, told Premier he knew the temporary relaxing of the rules could trigger more long term change and would want to be ensured that wouldn't happen. 

"I wouldn't want to see anything more than perhaps something just for a few weeks at the most, and even then would want some more persuasion this isn't just large chains of supermarkets who'd be arguing  to change the status quo for a long time,  simply seizing the opportunity. 

"I'm concerned about people who've got their own businesses, small shops. For example, people here in St Alans who are deeply worried and there may be a case to help them out, say for four or six weeks."

On 5th May he told The Telegraph that the proposals so far had lacked transparency. 

"Time frames for this decision, the suitability for non-busy stores, safeguards for workers unable or unwilling to work on Sundays and financial compensation are all left unspecified."

The government paper also said cafes and pubs would be given fast-track approval to serve food and drink outside, doing away with the need for the 28-day minimum statutory consultation period.

Former prime minister David Cameron was forced to drop plans to extend Sunday trading hours in 2016 after suffering a humiliating Commons defeat which saw 27 Tories joining forces with opposition parties.

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