Shut on Sunday

Baroness Deech

Controversy has broken out over the government’s plans to allow shops to stay open for longer on Sunday during the Olympics, so that spectators can boost the economy while they are there.  This move has reopened the question of Sunday shopping hours.  I was moved to write this blog by seeing two letters in the newspapers, one expressing concern that shopworkers would not have time to go to church before work if Sunday shopping hours were extended, and the other pointing out the selectivity of the concerns – that is, we all want and expect hospitals, pubs, transport etc. to be available on Sunday, all day long, so why not shopping?  I agree with this.  There is an element of snobbery about the objections and also some sexism. 

First the snobbery.  We do indeed all take it for granted that on Sunday the electricity is on, the water  and gas flow, and that emergency services, such as police and ambulances will be there to assist us if necessary.  We want to go to the cinema, restaurants, the park, concerts, the pub, the gym and the garage as on every other day.   So what is the problem about shopping? It seems to centre on a view of the family as gathered together all day Sunday after church, and workers having a day of rest.  Whether one likes it or not, churchgoing is less than universal, and families can gather, if they wish to, on any day of the week that suits them.  Workers may take a different day off.  In fact, it seems from my observations, that families are often together enjoying a day out shopping on Sunday, the only day when they can go together to choose a major item.

The sexism in this is that objections to longer Sunday opening hours appear to come in the most from men.  They are quite happy to have the pub, sport and the garage on Sunday as usual, but I suppose don’t want their wives out when they might be required at home to make lunch.  Cooking, visiting relatives, laundry and childcare are all taken for granted on Sundays.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all women downed tools at home on Sunday on the ground that it was a day of rest?  What working women want is a day when they can catch up with the shopping and other tasks impossible to perform during the working week – shopping number one, preferably with another family member; and if only hairdressers and dry cleaners and post offices were open too, one might manage a more stressfree week in general.  Here’s to the success of the longer Sunday opening hours!

16 comments for “Shut on Sunday

  1. 20/03/2012 at 10:17 am

    I have no qualms in terms of religion etc about opening longer on Sundays.

    However, in a totally irrational and indefensible way – I still like the idea that society in general has a period where the country collectively slows down once a week, even if only for a few hours on a Sunday morning.

    Yes, obviously people work during the weekend (myself included usually), and many services need people to be able to work at unusual hours. But retaining the idea that working on a Sunday morning is unusual is something I think I would like to preserve.

    It somehow gives the country a moment where it can feel free to sigh and stretch back to relax a bit without feeling that we should be up and doing things.

    Sunday mornings are a chance to go for a walk/drive/whatever and marvel at how shops that are open all the time are suddenly closed. How roads are a bit quieter, how shopping centres have an unusual otherworldly emptiness.

    Lets not move towards a society where every day is the same as the previous one, and keep just a few hours once a week when things change and are unusual.

  2. Croft
    20/03/2012 at 11:05 am

    I’m all for scrapping Sunday Trading laws; they are a wholly absurd and arbitrary interference on particular businesses. They have no regard to the majority of the population who don’t go to church, are of a religion that places no significance on Sunday or are atheists; take no consideration to the majority of the population who don’t work 9-5 Mon-F / Don’t work / are retired and yet can’t pick and choose shopping to suit their lifestyle and convenience.

    Frankly why the government doesn’t just get on with it rather than as I suspect using this as a trial run is depressing. We need to get the economy going and flexibility is deeply helpful.

  3. 20/03/2012 at 11:40 am

    I think Baroness Deech describes the situation perfectly. If Sunday was still “special”, perhaps it would be worth preserving. But it isn’t. All those businesses and services open on Sunday, small shops open all day, and large shops open as much as they are allowed to. Ian is right in that it is pleasant to get up on Sunday morning and take walk and see little traffic on the roads. But actually, the situation is similar first thing on Saturday morning. Much of the weekday traffic is actually people taking the kids to school.

    It is a source of continual annoyance that services such as the post office and bank have such limited opening hours. Who exactly are they intended for? Clearly retired and unemployed people and housewives. If you have to work in the week, you have to cram your visit to the post office to send a parcel into Saturday morning, and if you are very lucky, your bank might open for a few hours on Saturday morning too.

    Limited Sunday opening hours can actually ruin Sunday for those of us who have to work in the week. If we need to go shopping on Sunday, that means we can’t go out for the day as shopping first thing in the morning or in the evening isn’t feasible. And going to the shops on Sunday is a nightmare as everyone has to cram their shopping into the same few hours. Contrast this with Saturday evening: one of my favourite times to go to the supermarket as it is so quiet and somehow a more relaxed atmosphere. Sunday would actually be far more laid-back if the shops could open all day!

  4. maude elwes
    20/03/2012 at 11:51 am

    Why not open 24 hours. That way we can all be on the labour wheel day and night. What a fun existance that will be.

    So, lets begin with the opening seven days a week of banks, municipal buildings, Council offices, GP’s surgeries, financial houses, the lot. Why only shops? Why stop there? That is such narrow thinking. We are in dire need of proper twenty four hour medical practices. Our doctors and the consultants in the building for a twenty four hour rota is a must. Lives are being list without them.

    Then, lets open the Commons and the Lords for the full working 365 days a year. Prime Minister’s Question Time is ideal for a Sunday lunchtime. Then there will be no need for the ordinary man to miss it. And don’t forget to threaten all with being fired if they refuse those days they were hoping to be with their families. They are not pulling their weight if they don’t want the Sunday hours. Proof they are not committed to the country and its smooth working practice we must impose. Look how slowly government moves, Whitehall must put in a seven day week. And tax collection, now that definitely is a very necessary seven day function. What has gone wrong there for so long? We are losing productivity by their lax lifestyle.

    Pendulum swung to far t’other way. Yes, open up every office and keep them all at it. We must get full time for our tax paying money anything other is fraud.

    Yes, I am all for the full working week by all our people, those on the top as well as those on the bottom. Especially those in the billionaire class. Imagine the improvement in the economy if those go getters put in the hours needed to raise this country out of the brown.

    After all, we are all in this together.

    And whilst they are at it. Cut those long school holidays government offices take off year round. No need for long Summer vacations, and end of term, half term, etc., Long spells taken by those who run the country are a waste of good time. You see, running a country is a seven day a week, hard grind, how dare you think we should not have a full working practice there with no break. Our main aim in life has to be that work ethic, nwo doesn’t it? Only fair.

    Glad you are thinking for us all in this. No time like an immeidate shift is there? Cameron and his colleagues should be really excited, that will make it impossible for anyone not to know their faces when they are constantly at it for us all to see, seven days a week.

    Welcome to the real world.

    • Croft
      21/03/2012 at 11:49 am

      ME”Our doctors and the consultants in the building for a twenty four hour rota is a must. Lives are being list without them.”

      Your attempt at flippancy rather falls flat when we know that in hospital there is a marked increase in fatalities and complications on weekends due to fewer consultants (who now work more traditional hours). Getting a Dr to come out to elderly patents at weekends is increasingly difficult due to the mismanaged GP contract which sees them sub-let their work out. Personally I’d much rather my GP worked 1/2 day Thursday and did Sunday morning or a full Saturday than have a weekend with minimal service. (NB this is not a ST restriction)

      The rest of your argument falls down in that vast swathes already have flexible 7 day weeks and they are capped by the hours they work. You’re defending an arbitrary ban on buildings larger than 3kft. It doesn’t necessarily help families as those with one worker in those industries that work Sunday but with a partner in those that can’t have their family life disrupted where liberalisation would give them more chance of allowing them to synch their day(s) off.

      • maude elwes
        21/03/2012 at 4:46 pm


        As usual, you have totally misjudged my post.

        I wrote on GP’s and doctors, in essence, what you are saying.

        Please don’t try to tell me Doctors and Consultants work seven days a week. That is simply not true. You have it right when you say people die at weekends because these same medics are incommunicado, as they do not pick up their mobiles when it rings. And if they do, they prescribe over the phone, in the majority of cases. Unless it’s a celebrity of course. I mean, if Prince Charles falls off his polo pony, I’m sure the Consultant will be at the hospital before him. Prestige and big money comes a knocking when you take care of the famous. I have very close ties with a surgeon. I pretty well do know what goes on.

        Then of course hospital psychiatrists are there at weekends too. Oh yes, you are lucky if you can get one of those in the week. Let alone out of hours. And no, it has not changed since the coalition took up residence. What utter nonsense that is.

        Are you seriously trying to tell me that bankers and those in business at the top of the tree work seven days a week in the office, as a shopworker has to when they get taken on? Come off it. Who do you think you are fooling? Those on the job, or those who see it in their face when they go to the store?

        And of course we know the Commons and the Lords sit all year round and no summer or long school time vacations taken at all. It is so obvious even from this blog the time they are off.

        Flying to the USA for a gig on airforce one doesn’t constitute a working life in hard grind. That is holiday time. Endless meetings with sandwiches and coffee, then lunch and dinner at the White House is a game, not a job of work.

        So, when they decide that working time is seven days a week for us all, no matter what job you do, then I will go along with the idea. Until then, count me out.

        Sunday working days are a misery for all. And you already know that, for they have this practice in the good old USA, don’t they?

        • Lord Norton
          Lord Norton
          21/03/2012 at 9:00 pm

          maude elwes: There is a difference between being open seven days a week and working seven days a week.

          • maude elwes
            22/03/2012 at 10:37 am

            @Lord Norton:

            People who can’t fit their head into big hats of cleverness, should be very aware that size quite definitely matters?

  5. CS
    20/03/2012 at 12:18 pm

    You seem to assert that (a large proportion of) men who oppose extended Sunday opening do so because it will stop their wives doing all the housework for them while the men take the day off.

    Do you have any evidence to support this statement? Because to me it seems a huge assumption.

  6. 20/03/2012 at 12:56 pm

    My objection is the impact it will have on the corner shop and the High Street.

  7. Gareth Howell
    20/03/2012 at 6:31 pm

    I was as much against the opening of shops and pubs on Sunday as anybody in the LDOS, but with such a vast influx of non Christians in to this country it makes no sense to keep the
    shops shut when it is not a holy day for many people.

    The pub opening hours is a very different matter indeed, and I am still profoundly against the very rapid transfer of privately owned pubs in to the hands of aggressive corporations who lobbied very vigourously to change the pub opening hours to suit their managers, and increased income at the expense of far more drunkenness on the streets… everywhere.

    The drastic increase in cirrhosis of the liver in young people under 35, and a public drunkennes problem which the French succeeded in getting rid of in the 1950s-60s
    with considerable difficulty, is now our own.

    If the Baroness is saying she thinks that consequence of increased pub opening hours is a good one, then I do not share her views.

    I do not!

    Drink is a big seller in the supermarkets, too and selling that in all the emporia up and down the country, is just one more reason for them to want to be open 24/7.

    The supermarkets want to beat the little fellas out of business, and have more or less suceeded in doing it, in the petrol trade, in the beer trade(persuading them to buy spirits instead)and in groceries.

    The only very,very worthy competitors small time, are the Bangla/Indian/Pakistani/Chinese traders, who are happy to spend ALL their time manning the till in their shop, and they richly deserve all the profit they make,
    which in the absence of being the servants of the supermarkets, so would the hard working employees of the supermarkets pro rata, in their own shops, unbeaten by the trickery of the big boys, out for big shareholder profits.

    • maude elwes
      22/03/2012 at 9:45 am

      @Gareth Howell:

      you write, the vast influx of immigrants to this country means we should change our way of life to suit them as, semingly, you are referring to the different religions.

      As the majority of immigrants knew we had Sunday closure before they came, why would they need to have it different from the example set for hundreds of years by the Jewish community. They, as anyone who has lived in the parts of our country that have a large Jewish population know, close on Friday, before Shabbas and oen again Sunday morning. No need to change Sunday closing for the majority of us. Other religions can follow suit. And as there is 4.6% of the population Muslim and 2.2 % Jewish, why would the majority of call it 90% others have to change thier habits which they enjoy to keep in step with those who came here?

      Besides, where in Britian are the people most contented? Well, Devon and Cornwall comes up a lot. And how do they perform on their choice of working week. Why, surprise surprise, the shops close on Thursday afternoon and Sunday as they have, for a good many years. Does anyone want it to change there? No. They are happy with the way of life they have enjoyed for a long time.

      And I will add, that you suggesting the small shopkeeper has to keep up with the Supermarket is down to government making it possibble to open on Sunday in the first place.

      Those who own big Supermarkets are not in those same supermarkets doing the grind. They are off for their weekend family get together. Had this kind of idiot competition not been set up by those who rule us, when they did it, the terrible outcome would not have been the result we now see. Britians struggling to keep on their feet as they did when they had to put children up the chimney.

      Had sunday opening never started small shop owners could get the time they need for a life, rather than struggle to comepte with financial giants they cannot come close to thwarting.

      This is a horrendous plan to take the litle free time small people have from them. And it has nothing whatsoever to do with the man in the street. Quite the reverse. It is the caving in to pressure from the big corporations you mentioned.

      So, please, be real and don’t try to pretend it is a Robin Hood suggestion. Everyone and his uncle knows that is a con.

      What is at the back of this, is doing away with Sunday to rid us of the Church. Then add that to getting the nation into the work psyche of slaves imported to the US years ago. They were on call 24/7 and as I wrote before, that is only acceptable if everywhere else is open as well. Schools, Town Halls, government offices, the Commons, the Lords, and on and on ad infinitum. Everywhere a seven day working week.

  8. Gareth Howell
    23/03/2012 at 6:49 pm

    Yes Maude.

    The government likes large shops because it is much easier to raise taxes from the employees, all in one go. If each one of the employees owned a shop then there would be ten thousand tax returns rather than one.

    That is not, however, in my opinion, a good argument for not having small shops.

    the vast influx of immigrants to this country means we should change our way of life to suit them as, semingly, you are referring to the different religions.

    About 10% of the population, or more, is immigrant but quite a few of those are of the Chrisitan faith, so sunday closing might well appeal to them.

    With the arrival of the age of the car we all need much more space (I don’t; I gave up driving; somebody else uses my space)
    We therefore have to CREATE more space by using what we have got more carefully.
    Non-use of assets on sunday is a waste of space; use sunday, and you are creating more space.

    Space and Time is an interesting subject, not just in the high street.

    Miles now knows that there are 224m solar years in 1 galactic year. THAT is time and space, although it will be a while before we know how to use the galactic ones, or legislate for sunday trading within them.

    • MilesJSD
      27/03/2012 at 12:34 am

      Miles sez:
      Since having created the Universe(s),
      within which this Galaxy requires its very own “year” within which we Earthians & our Solar-System require our respectively different “years”,
      The Creator&Son (God&Jesus) couldn’t stay awake Sundays (or Sabbaths, whatever)

      then either “The Human Race can be trusted to do whatsoever it likes on a Sunday, God’s made it all safe and is not to be disturbed, He is resting until 0001 hours Monday morning”

      or “God”
      and The Library of God (the 66 books of ‘The Bible’)
      are figmental

      or beyond my-&-possibly-our

      All I can see is that this Human Lifeplace needs sustenance 24/7/52 (… and for its Future (light-years that GH recognises too))

      but all Lifesupportive Places for the Low-Incomed and Disadvantaged, such as the Drop-In-Centres, MIND, Age Concern and so on and so forth, close at effectively 3pm Friday and do not open again effectively until after 10 a.m. Monday morning.

      Nevertheless, in Plymouth at least, the one place one can buy a breakfast before 10a.m on a Sunday is the Greenbank Restaurant in Derriford hospital (though most buses don’t get you there until nearly 9 a.m)

      So those saying that “money-making” has supplanted “health-making” are spot-on.

      But if we are to have “Sunday Trading”, surely it must come second place to affordable 24/7 “Lifesupportive Service Centres”*

      * Beware “Churches” whose main lifesupport on Sundays is on the increase, but consists of Coffee and Sugary Cookies, by donation, AFTER the words-full Service.

      The World Class (brand new) Plymouth Life Centre likewise switches off Life at 1800 hours and keeps it switched off until 0900 next day;
      and sells too little truly health-building food and drink and too many ‘junky’ ones; and has no major planned area for one to take one’s own “slow stretching-for-health” padded-mat, let alone staff sufficiently experienced in slow low-effort movement-improvement for the impaired, unversed, weak, or elderly.

  9. Gareth Howell
    28/03/2012 at 2:46 pm

    He is resting until 0001 hours Monday morning”
    or “God”
    and The Library of God (the 66 books of ‘The Bible’)
    are figmental
    or beyond my-&-possibly-our

    But not mine since the books represent the stories of the 12 tribes of Israel and their sub tribes which may at any given time amount to the 66 tht Miles suggests.

    Jack Cohen is doing well; a leading tribe?
    Moses? Abraham? David?

    The Celtic tribes, of which I have knowledge, and am one member of, are the same, having stories which are equally lost in the mists of time, to time immemorial.

  10. sspells88
    24/04/2012 at 6:55 am

    I come from a state in the United States that has had unrestricted Sunday shopping (except for alcohol) for around 40 years, and when I last visited the UK I made it all the way to the doors of the “24 Hour Tesco” next to the hotel before realizing that it was closed most of the day on Sunday. Of course, I was also surprised to find many shops in Canada closed on holidays, since most shops only close once or twice a year (nearly everything is closed on Christmas, and a dwindling number of retailers close up on our Thanksgiving holiday in November).

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