Usdaw criticises an ill-conceived and untimely attempt to change Sunday trading laws

Shopworkers trade union leader John Hannett has called on Peers to reject an amendment to the Deregulation Bill, tabled by Lord Borwick, which would exempt garden centres from the Sunday Trading Act. It is due to be considered on Tuesday 28 October.

During the passage of the Olympic Sunday Trading Bill Rt Hon Vince Cable MP, Business Secretary, stated from the dispatch box: ‘Any move towards the abolition of the UK’s Sunday trading laws would require new legislation, a full consultation and extensive parliamentary scrutiny.’

John Hannett – Usdaw General Secretary said: ‘I am disappointed to see this amendment tabled towards the end of Parliament’s scrutiny of the Deregulation Bill, a Government Bill that is not about Sunday trading. The Government was very clear in their commitment to a full consultation and in no way does this amendment meet that pledge.

‘Parliament decided that garden centres should fall within the scope of the Sunday Trading Act, not least because it is difficult to distinguish between a garden centre and a large store with a gardening department. This amendment makes no effort to draw-up a legal definition that would provide clarity.

‘Garden centres these days are now large operations selling a wide variety of products including furniture, kitchenware, gifts, toys and games. They have much in common with a DIY store with a large gardening department or a supermarket selling a wide range of plants and garden products in spring, sometimes under a marquee in the car park. An exemption for garden centres could therefore open up a loophole in the Sunday Trading Act, allowing large stores to redefine themselves as a garden centre.

‘The existing Sunday trading law provides a fair and balanced compromise between competing views. It allows our members a little time every week to spend with their family and ensure that Sunday remains a different day to every other. In a recent survey of almost 2,000 members, 91% said there should not be any change to Sunday trading regulations and we will continue to defend our members’ best interests.’