It’s time to end the archaic Sunday shopping restrictions

Crowds of people gathered for festivities and entertainment in the Cornhill for the Ipswich Christm

Crowds of people gathered for festivities and entertainment in the Cornhill for the Ipswich Christmas lights switch on - but the law said they could not return to the shops! - Credit: Archant

I know how special Sundays are to the British, so isn’t it about time we introduced more legislation to enshrine that in law?

Wouldn’t it be good if long trains could only operate for six hours on a Sunday? Small two-car units could be exempt and run at any time.

Restaurants and cafes should only be able to operate for six hours (unless they have less than ten tables) and multi-screen cinemas should have the same restriction – allowing small set-ups like the Ipswich Film Theatre the freedom to open when they like.

Does all this sound daft? If so, why on earth should the government be sticking its nose in and legislating on when large shops can and cannot open on Sundays?

In a multi-racial, multi-faith society like Britain’s, why on earth should there be legislation proscribing when one section of one industry can and cannot be free to do business?

I was in Ipswich town centre on Sunday afternoon in the run-up to the big Christmas lights switch-on. At 4.30pm shops were having to shut their doors although there were thousands of people about.

As the country struggles to emerge from recession and the traditional retail industry struggles to meet the challenges of the online competition, this is absolutely bonkers!

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Let’s face it, the six-hour rule was originally brought in 20 years ago to appease a bunch of hard-line Christian zealots and stroppy trades unionists who were out of touch with the real world even then.

I had hoped that when the government showed a great deal of sanity and suspended the rule during last year’s Jubilee and Olympic summer that would be the beginning of the end of these archaic restrictions.

Sadly they’re still here 18 months later – strangling attempts by retailers to allow market forces to govern their opening hours.

Let’s face it no one is forced to shop on a Sunday. Why don’t we restrict shop opening hours on a Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath) or a Friday (the Islamic holy day)?

So long as there is legislation in place to protect anyone who wants to avoid working on a particular day for religious reasons (for any religion) that should be good enough.

After all the principle of working on a Sunday is allowed, so presumably the zealots think that anyone out shopping or serving in shops already are going to hell in a handcart anyway!

What is really disappointing is that no MP seems to have the courage to stand up and say let’s get rid of this law that is holding back business.

After all no other business apart from large-scale retail has opening hours legislated in such an authoritarian way – I suspect that when the laws are finally relaxed permanently we will all be left scratching our heads and wondering why no one thought of doing this years ago!