Monday, February 08, 2016

Sunday Trading: Is It a Consultation If Nobody Listens?

Update: the government has published its response to the consultation. You can hardly see for the smoke and mirrors. It state that a majority of medium and large businesses wanted more Sunday trading (there's a surprise) as did a majority of local authorities (not a surprise, as the Conservatives run a majority of local councils). The words 'majority' don't appear anywhere else, so from that we can infer that a majority of small businesses, other organisations, and individuals, were against the proposals. There's no summary of these stats anywhere of course, the only bits of responses quoted are those supportive of the policy the government already has. There are surveys and statistics which show it has negative economic and social effect, but none of these are mentioned. The response is just as skewed as the initial consultation. CofE official response to the government response here.

Visit this page today, and here's what you see

The Conservative government issued a one-sided consultation document, took feedback, and according to their website, are still analysing it. That would explain why, after one aborted attempt to railroad a change to Sunday trading laws through Parliament, David Cameron is trying again. This time, the change in law is being brought in under a sack through the most obscure back door the government can find:

What do you do when you want to change a law but Parliament won’t allow it? Simple: you smuggle it back as a late amendment to another Bill which has already been debated by the House of Commons and scrutinised by the House of Lords. That way, there’s no prospect of a vote and so no embarrassing defeat.

So the amendment won't be debated in the Lords at all. Democracy, who needs it?

David Cameron made an explicit promise on this on April 20th 2015: “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 shop in large stores on a Sunday, and those who would like to see further restrictions.” 

The Church of Englands response to this latest manoevre points out that the changes will damage family and community life, and lead to a net loss of jobs in the retail sector, mostly in smaller businesses. That probably won't bother the bosses of Next, or the Westfield centre, major donors to the Conservative party, who would be among those who stand to benefit from the changes. If taxation practice is made by deals with the biggest taxpayers, then sadly it wouldn't be a surprise if retail practice is worked out by deals with the biggest retailers.

Here's a number of reasons why the changes are wrong, which I sent in to the consultation. I'm still waiting to hear what the government will do when it has actually analysed our feedback, rather than ignoring it. What is the point of consulting us Mr Cameron? I'd rather you saved everyone the time and were honest. Better still, pull the amendment now. 

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