Sunday Trading Hours Plans Are A Threat To Families And The 'Common Good,' Say Churches

Allowing shops to open for longer on Sundays will disrupt community life and threaten the "common good", a group of Christian leaders has warned.

The leaders claim George Osborne's plans to let businesses trade for longer on a Sunday would remove "common leisure time essential for family life" and stop shop workers from seeing their relatives.

Ministers want to give towns and cities the power to relax laws that stipulate large businesses and shops can only open for six hours between 10am and 6pm on a Sunday.

Church leaders say 'human flourishing' would be at risk with longer Sunday trading hours

The religious group, including senior figures from the Church of England and Roman Catholic church, have written to the Sunday Telegraph to caution against proposals to remove the rules, the Press Association reported.

If local councils get the powers, which are planned to come into force by this Autumn, large supermarkets and other big shops could be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The rhythms of community life and "human flourishing" could suffer, say the church leaders, who also claim small business would lose out.

The letter - signed by Anglican Bishop of St Albans the Rt Rev Dr Alan Smith and Catholic Archbishop of Southwark the Most Rev Peter Smith, as well as a Methodist minister and Salvation Army colonel - claims the current arrangements strike a balance between the needs of consumers and communities.

The letter reads: "They make space for shopping, while preserving the common leisure time essential for family life and shared social activities.

"They also protect small stores from near-monopolies, and preserve the right of shop workers to spend time with their families."

The Christian leaders reference a recent study that forecasts no net gain for the economy if the plans go ahead.

Instead, the changes will result in a loss of market share for smaller shops, they claim.

Church leaders warn leisure time is 'central to human flourishing'

"Most fundamentally, however, we are concerned that the further deregulation of Sunday trading laws is likely to disrupt the rhythms of community life that are so integral to the common good," the letter says.

"In a world of increasing commodification the space for shared time and activities, central to human flourishing, is becoming increasingly rare."

The full list of signatories is: Rt Rev Dr Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans; Most Rev Peter Smith, Archbishop of Southwark; Most Rev Dr Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales; Rev Steven J Wild, president of the Methodist Conference; Colonel David Hinton, chief secretary of the Salvation Army; Rev David Grosch-Miller, moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church.