One should be suspicious of government ministers who claim that we could live more cheaply if such and such a trading law was to be changed.
Big business enjoys great privileges politically when it comes to getting what it wants to improve profits. Those behind the high street brand names are often photographed dining out with politicians or are seen being entertained at No. 10. Many of them are rewarded with knighthoods.
I suspect those little tete-a-tetes are behind the latest changes being proposed to the Sunday trading laws by the government which claims that longer Sunday shopping hours could help cut household shopping bills by up to £64 a year, an amount, I suggest, would barely fill the average family car with petrol these days.
Local government minister Brandon Lewis says the change would mean stores would become more profitable with the ability to open longer. Where did that information come from and if it’s true would they pass on the extra revenue in lower prices? Chance would be a fine thing. Don’t forget we’re living in a time when many big stores are resisting the idea of the living wage having quietly done away with traditional working contracts in favour of paying by the hour worked, dictated, of course by the bosses.
All sorts of organisations are outraged by the idea of longer Sunday trading hours. Churches insist that such a change would bring an end to the idea of Sunday being the common day of rest.
Other campaigners say that allowing shop workers ``a day of communal rest’’ means they can spend time with their families. Critics point out that the extra families may save with cheaper shopping would be cancelled out by extra childcare costs. I shouldn’t care one bit about longer Sunday opening hours but I do. Sunday has never been my favourite day. As a child it always meant going to church and listening to incomprehensible sermons, and long afternoons at home doing nothing as you wore your good clothes on a Sunday and getting dirty through play was not an option. Sometimes it meant visiting church a second time since our parents were attached to two different forms of worship, Presbyterian and Church of Ireland.
The first was tolerable, the second boring beyond belief. As I got older church meant less and less to me and I wanted to spend Sunday differently. But other than long walks or having picnics out in the sunshine there was nothing much to do as everywhere was closed.
The only shop open for miles was a little place on the fringe of Toome airfield which had profited greatly when the American soldiers were stationed there during World War II. After the war was over it depended on local trade only and on a Sunday afternoon that was the likes of us spending our weekly sixpence pocket money on sweets. If the day was wet – well there was nothing more miserable than a Sunday with the rain pouring down.
When boyfriends with cars came on the horizon the joy was escaping to Portrush or going as far as Donegal. It all seemed so grown up. Sundays became bearable, just.
Despite the advent of shops opening on Sunday 20 years ago I have never been able to shake off the Sunday dread. I have taken advantage of it, of course. But I don’t enjoy Sunday shopping. Sundays now will find me reading or gardening, maybe visiting family whilst longing for it to be Monday.
Despite all that I can’t see that longer Sunday shopping would make the population happier with more money in their pockets. John Ashcroft, of Keep Sunday Special says the concept of a weekend ‘‘is rooted around the idea that there is a day that’s different. If you lose that why not do everything all of the time?’’ I would support skipping the day in the calendar altogether and moving swiftly from Saturday to Monday.