The government was defeated tonight over its plans to force longer opening hours on a Sunday. Helen spoke out on behalf of shop workers in her constituency
The main reason I will be supporting the amendment tonight is that the Government’s proposal is bad for people who work in shops—it is bad for them as individuals, it is bad for their families and it is bad for their communities.
The hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) made a brilliant speech, and I was very disappointed by the Minister’s response. The notion that the British economy can become more efficient only by making people work seven days a week is absurd. If that is the economic model, there is something wrong with the economic model.
People work to live; they do not live to work. There are lots of things we could do that would be more efficient. We could propose to our partners by text, or we could read to our children on Skype from the office, but nobody would suggest those things. The constant denigration of family life is truly unhelpful.
The protections for those in shops are not working properly. It is ironic that the legal advice against the proposals comes from John Bowers QC, who is now the president of Brasenose College—perhaps the Prime Minister should go back to his old college and get a little tutorial on this problem.
We know from the experience of the Olympics that this proposal will not strengthen the economy; it will just shift business from small shops to big shops. It will also not stop people using the internet. I am afraid the Minister’s proposal for pilots and evaluation is very much undermined by the way the Government have handled the issue in the last six months.
I know that the amendment from the right hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs Spelman) is well intentioned, but the irony is that every cathedral city in the land would be zoned and have longer hours, and it is the Church that is leading the campaign against longer Sunday trading hours.
I have had no representations from constituents in favour of change—only representations in favour of keeping the status quo. That is true whether people run businesses or work in shops. I will leave the last word to a woman who works in a shop in my constituency, who wrote to me saying, “Don’t I deserve a life too?”