From the blog

No change to Sunday trading laws. Is this right or wrong?

By Paul Clement

Some suggest that the recent defeat of proposals to introduce extended Sunday trading in England became somehow caught up in divisions over Europe and the need for backbenchers to give the government a ‘bloody nose’; others will suggest it was all down to the SNP showing some muscle in protecting trade in Scotland by blocking English reform; others would point to the needs of those working in the retail sector not being properly addressed.

I am no expert in the workings of government and so it is not for me to pick the reasons why the plans fail. All that I would say is that the needs of the consumer should not trample over the rights of the employee and fairness was always going to be important.

However, cough I can’t help thinking that, generic if we want our high streets to work, drugs some rebalancing is required. Firstly, the difference between business rates paid by out of town retailers must be brought into line with that paid by high street shops for which it is normally substantially higher. With that increased cost, together with the fact that shoppers travelling into town by car have to pay whereas parking is invariably free out of town, produces a playing field that is far from level.

The second crucial factor, though, is that customers can buy 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by sitting on their sofa and surfing the internet; yet they can only visit their favourite shop for 6 hours on a Sunday. Unless, of course, that shop is in, say, a petrol filling station where they can spend money all day. Or maybe they prefer to eat and drink all day in their local pub that will probably open for breakfast and kick out after last orders.

I am not suggesting that every shop must or would want to open longer on a Sunday; I am also not saying that every customer would change his or her habit. However, what I do think is that it is likely that the subject will return at some point in the future… but probably after we have decided our future either in or out of Europe!

A similar article was published in Business East (in the East Anglian Daily Times) on Tuesday 15 March.