Enterprise

Written evidence submitted by CARE (Christian Action Research and Education) (ENT 55)

1. CARE (Christian Action Research and Education) is a well-established mainstream Christian charity providing resources and helping to bring Christian insight and experience to matters of public policy and practical caring initiatives.  CARE demonstrates Christ’s compassion to people of all faiths and none believing that individuals are of immense value, not because of the circumstances of their birth, their behaviour or achievements, but because of their intrinsic worth as people. 

2. As it stands, the Enterprise Bill does not contain provisions allowing local authorities to liberalise Sunday trading; however, New Clause 21 which, together with NS1 addresses this area, was tabled by the Government on 9 February. In what follows we highlight our main concerns about the proposed changes by addressing:

· the lack of respect for proper due process;

· public opinion, the views of shop workers, and the concerns of small businesses;

· the negative effect that the proposed changes will have on:

o ‘Time off in common’ and consequently on our economy;

o ‘Religious freedom’ (despite the Government’s commitment to reduce the notice period for the opt-out); and

· the devolution argument that only some local authorities will liberalise Sunday trading.

I ] Due P rocess

3. Given the huge controversy surrounding this issue, CARE is deeply disturbed that the Government should seek to introduce the Sunday trading provision at such a late stage in the passage of the Enterprise Bill through our bicameral legislature. A matter that attracts over 7,000 consultation responses should be subjected to full and proper debate and scrutiny by both Houses of Parliament. [1]

4. This concern about process is compounded by the fact that not only was the policy of allowing local authorities to further liberalise Sunday trading not in the Conservative Manifesto, but during the Election campaign – on 20 April 2015 – the Prime Minister provided the Keep Sunday Special Campaign with the following assurance: I can assure you that we have no current plans to relax the Sunday trading laws. We believe that the current system provides a reasonable balance between those who wish to see more opportunity to sh o p in large stores on Sunday, and those who would like to see further restrictions .’ [2]

II] Policy Arguments

5. In dealing with the substance of what is proposed we want to focus primarily on time off in common and religious liberty, but before we do so CARE notes that there are additional important substantive bases of opposition.

Public o pinion

6. A recent Populus poll showed 67% of the British public support existing Sunday trading hours while only 23% oppose the current rules. The public believe that Sunday is different from the rest of the week. Only one in eight believe there is not enough time to shop under the current regulations. [3]

Shop w orkers o pposed

7. The status quo is also favoured by shop workers. A survey of over 10,000 retail staff at large stores carried out by USDAW has shown that 91% would be against the Government’s plans to relax the current laws. 58% of shop workers in large stores are already under pressure to work more hours on Sundays. Only 6% want more Sunday work, compared to 35% who want less. [4]

Small Business o pposition

8. Small businesses are hugely important to the health of our economy and yet seven leading small business bodies oppose these plans: the Federation of Small Businesses, the Association of Convenience Stores, the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters, the Rural Shops Alliance, the Federation of Wholesale Distributors and the National Federation of Retail Newsagents.

Impact on jobs and the e conomy

9. Oxford Economics’ analysis of the temporary liberalisation of Sunday trading over the Olympics states: " Analysis of the relative performance of stores with and without a supermarket within one mile showed a differential equating to £1,758 or 4% of lost Sunday turnover over the eight week period. Stores with two supermarkets within a mile lost 4.8% of their Sunday turnover. This differential became wider still for stores trading against a number of large stores within a two mile radius. For small stores with five supermarkets trading within two miles, the impact on Sunday sales was over 7%. " [5]

10. Moreover, Oxford Economics also projects that under the Government’s new proposals 8,800 jobs would be lost in the convenience sector with a net loss of 3,270 jobs for the wider grocery sector because of displaced trade from small to large businesses. [6]

11. The point has also been made that the changes will primarily boost out-of-town shopping centres which tend to include larger shops of over 3,000 square metres. [7] Most high street shops are smaller than 3,000 square metres and can already open all day on Sunday. In liberalising the law for larger shops these proposals will compound the problems facing our high streets, shifting more trade away from them to out-of-town shopping centres.

12. In this context it plainly is not possible to suggest that the world of business wants Sunday trading liberalisation. Small businesses are opposed. Moreover, it is not even possible to say that the world of big business is united in wanting further Sunday trading liberalisation. What is remarkable about the Government’s consultation response document is their admission that almost a quarter of submissions in the category including the larger businesses were opposed to any change. [8]

Time off in common

13. The health of our economy depends on both its social and natural environment. In the same way one can undermine long term growth prospects by not caring for the natural environment, so too can one damage long term growth by not caring for the social environment. The ability of a fragile social environment to undermine economic output is graphically illustrated by the fact that family breakdown costs £47 billion per annum [9] , £35 billion per annum more than the saving George Osborne wants to make on the welfare budget.

14. One of the key provisions that helps uphold the health of our social environment is the option of ‘time off in common’ – time when no one in the family is working so that both parents and children can spend time together and invest in their relationships. The provision of one day off in common per week is a vital support for our social environment that is already eroded to far too great an extent through current Sunday trading arrangements. Interestingly, when the law was last changed, and when the principle of time off in common was afforded greater respect, the cost of family breakdown was far less than its current level. In 1994 the cost of family breakdown was estimated to be between £3.7 and £4.4 billion per annum. [10] It is now calculated at £47 billion. [11]

Time off in common and well-being

15. The desire to extend Sunday trading seems to be born of a desire to boost GDP figures yet, as the Government itself has recognised, GDP figures are a blunt tool and there is a need to look at broader well-being. We agree with David Cameron when he said at the Google Zeitgeist Europe conference in 2006, "It's time we admitted that there's more to life than money, and it's time we focused not just on GDP, but on GWB - general well-being. Well-being can't be measured by money or traded in markets. It's about the beauty of our surroundings, the quality of our culture and, above all, the strength of our relationships. " [12] By invitation of the Government in 2011, the ONS rightly pioneered the National Well-Being Programme which highlights the crucial importance of relationships. The policy of further restricting the availability of time-off in common in the interest of boosting economic output constitutes a clear move in the opposite direction, making it harder for families to spend time together.

Time off in common and t he Family Test

16. In August 2014, the Government made a commitment to put family back at the heart of public policy. In a speech at the Relationships Alliance Summit the Prime Minister, highlighting the huge cost of family breakdown, asked how can we help families stay together? How can we help families have more time to spend together? He continued: ‘The reality is that in the past the family just hasn’t been central to the way government thinks. So you get a whole load of policy decisions which take no account of the family and sometimes make these things worse. Whether it’s the benefits system incentivising couples to live apart or penalising those who go out to work - or whether it’s excessive bureaucracy preventing loving couples from adopting children with no family at all. We can’t go on having government taking decisions like this which ignore the impact on the family.’ The answer he argued was the introduction of the family test. ‘Now that test is being formalised as part of the impact assessment for all domestic policies. Put simply that means every single domestic policy that government comes up with will be examined for its impact on the family. That’s my commitment to you .. .’ [13]

17. The proposed extension to Sunday trading will have a decidedly negative impact on families. Couple relationships will be put under further strain as time off in common is reduced. In its guidance on the Family Test, the Government itself recognised that balancing work and family life can contribute to family breakdown. [14] The respected Social Market Foundation has applied the Family Test to the Sunday trading proposals, using the Department of Work and Pensions Family Test Guidance. It concludes that the policy fails on every aspect of the Family Test. [15]

18. In particular, Sunday working has a detrimental effect on both the quantity and quality of time fathers, who statistically are more likely to work on Sundays than mothers, spend with their children. [16] David Cameron has previously called for fathers to be brought back into the lives of children, but limiting time off in common will once again drive fathers further from their children. [17]

19. CARE urges the Government to publish its analysis of this policy change on the basis of the Family Test.

Time off in common and the Global Economic Race

20. The Chancellor and Prime Minister want Britain to win the global economic race but Britain can only win that race if we pace and look after ourselves. We cannot afford to pursue an unenlightened, crude dash for growth that will, by further eroding time off in common, place family relationships under greater pressure. This must increase the risk of family breakdown, further compromising our position in the race. We would better serve our endeavour to win the race by working to dramatically reduce the annual £47 billion cost of family breakdown rather than promoting policies that there is good reason to believe will add to it.

Religious l iberty

21. Section 45 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 provides that a protected shop worker or betting worker "has the right not to be subjected to any detriment by any act, or any deliberate failure to act, by his employer done on the ground that the employee refused (or proposed to refuse) to do shop work, or betting work, on Sunday or on a particular Sunday".

22. However, as John Bowers QC observes in his legal opinion on the Government’s proposal to allow local authorities to liberalise Sunday t rading: The opt-out has been widely ineffective in practice. A 2012 survey revealed that 48 per cent of trade union U SDAW ’s members already face pressure from their employer to work on Sundays, while 72 per cent suggested they would face further pressure if regulations changed to a llow shops to open longer. [18]

23. The Government has made a great deal of its commitment to make protections for workers more robust. In their response to the consultation, however, this primari ly amounts to reducing the notice period for the opt-out from three months to one month. [19] Given that , as Bowers has demonstrated , the opt-out is widely ineffective, changing the notice period is immaterial . If the Government is to introduce robust provision it must replace the opt-out with a mechanism that works rather than making much of simply changing the notice period on a provision that does not work.

24. Bowers went on to consider the other legal basis of protection for workers wanting protection from having to work on a Sunday specifically for religious reasons, namely the Equality Act 2010. He argued that the protection it offered was complex and expensive. He said, " Any relaxation of Sunday trading laws will clearly lead to more pressure on people to work on Sundays, interfering with Sunday as a day of rest. More Christians will be forced by their employers to choose between their faith and their job – not just retail workers, but those in security, cleaning, distribution and transport " [20]

25. He concluded that :

" In summary if the Government does enact the present proposals on which it has consulted

a. There will still be no protection for those who are in support services;

b. The protection of those of religious faith will depend on the right to claim under the Equality Act 2010, which is difficult and costly to pursue in this area;

c. Non-religious employees who do not want to work on Sundays for personal or family reasons are unlikely to be protected by the Equality Act; and

d. There may be unintended consequences insofar as Supreme Court decisions on employment cases will apply to Scotland. " [21]

Devolution Argument: is it possible that only a f ew l ocal a uthorities will l iberalise Sunday t rading ?

26. It has been argued that only a few local authorities will use the proposed power. However , even if only a few local authorities chose to liberalise Sunday Trading , it would remain a bad idea for all the reasons stated above . However, t he idea that just some local authorities will choose to deregulate does not really stand up to scrutiny. Once one local authority has decided to rem ove all restrictions on Sunday t rading the pressures on others to do the same will be very considerable.

27. The Association of Convenience Stores survey of local government chief executives reveals that more than half (53%) said they would be influenced i f neighbouring local authorities decided to liberalise Sunday t rading. [22]

28. Moreover , in his legal opinion John Bowers QC identified the legal tools that would be at the disposal of big companies to put local authorities under pressure on this point in a rather chilling way: " If this [the Government’s current proposal] happens , local authorities will come under pressure from the stores groups to allow greater opening hours. These commercial interests would have deep pockets to challenge, by judicial review applications, local authorities who are short of money should they not liberalise opening hours in their area. These claims might raise issues that the local authority was unreasonable in not permitting the same hours as a neighbouring authority without good reason. " [23]

Conclusion

29. The fact that these proposed changes undermine the interests of small busine sses, put new pressures on shop workers the majority of whom d o not want to work longer hours erode s time off in common for families placing our social environment under greater pressure , while plac ing new pressures on Christians and church attendance, make them the source of considerable concern.

30. These substantive policy concerns are greatly compounded by concerns about due process. The idea that a proposal that is so controversial that it attracted over 7 , 000 consultation submissions, when proposed by Government, should be introduced in such a way that i t effectively bypasses one H ouse of Parliament is deeply concerning.

31. For both reasons CARE would call on the Committee to reject New Clause 21 and ask the Government to think again.

February 2016


[1] Devolving Sunday Trading Rules: Government Response, 2016 para 2.

[2] http://news.sky.com/story/1514455/government-makes-u-turn-on-sunday-trading

[3] http://www.populus.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Public-attitudes-towards-Sunday-Trading-080915.pdf

[4] https://www.usdaw.org.uk/About-Us/News/2015/September/Shopworkers-in-large-stores-overwhelmingly-reject

[5] Oxford Economics, ‘The impact of Olympic Sunday trading liberalisation on convenience store turnover’, November 2012, Exec Summary http://www.acs.org.uk/download/devolving-sunday-trading-rules/

[6] Economic Impact of Deregulating Sunday Trading, Oxford Economics, September http://www.acs.org.uk/download/economic-impact-of-deregulating-sunday-trading-oxford-economics-september-2015/

[7] http://www.acs.org.uk/advice/trading-hours/

[8] Devolving Sunday Trading Rules: Government Response, 2016 para 3.

[9] http://www.relationshipsfoundation.org/cost-of-family-failure-47-bn-and-still-rising/

[10] This is set out in para 30 a report for the Lord Chancellor in 1999 produced by Sir Graham Hart. It continues: ‘The largest element in that figure was social security spending of between £3 billion and £3.7 billion. The estimate also included the costs of legal aid, social services, tax allowances and NHS treatment. The cost of legal aid alone was £300 million in 1993-4.

[11] http://www.relationshipsfoundation.org/cost-of-family-failure-47-bn-and-still-rising/ No doubt the 1994 assessment was not conducted in exactly the same way as the 2015 assessment but the huge increase in cost is clearly concerning.

[12] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5003314.stm

[13] Department for Work and Pensions, "The Family Test: Guidance for Government Departments" ( 2014) 3

[14] Department for Work and Pensions, "The Family Test: Guidance for Government Departments" (2014) 8

[15] www.acs.org.uk/?wpdmdl=3530

[16] National Centre for Social Research, "Working Atypical Hours: What Happens to Family Life?" (2006) (2-4)

[17] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/david-cameron/8583752/Runaway-fathers-are-like-drink-drivers-blasts-David-Cameron.html

[18] John Bowers QC, Legal Opinion on Sunday Trading: Consultation on Sunday trading rules, October 30 2015, Para 4.

[19] Devolving Sunday Trading Rules: Government Response, para 3.13.

[20] Ibid., para 17.

[21] Ibid., para 18.

[22] www.acs.org.uk/download/devolving-sunday-trading-rules/

[23] John Bowers, Legal Opinion on Sunday Trading: Consultation on Sunday trading rules, para 6.

 

Prepared 18th February 2016