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Saturday, April 15, 2006 

Oh joy: They want even more time for you to shop until you drop.

In the retail year, tomorrow is unique: Easter Sunday is the only Sunday when there is no chance of a trip to Tesco or a garden centre.

But this year could be the last guaranteed day of rest for shopworkers. The Department of Trade and Industry is considering a change in the law which prevents big stores from opening for more than six hours on a Sunday and would sweep away the ban on Easter Day trading. Opposition is mounting and battlelines are being drawn.

The campaign to extend Sunday opening hours is being co-ordinated by the lobby group Deregulate, which argues that "shoppers should be allowed to do their shopping then they want", and that ending the Sunday trading rules would fit in with the government's drive to slash red tape. "If the government is serious about de-regulation then it can scrap a piece of unnecessary legislation now", said David Ramsden, the Deregulate chairman.

Deregulate is financed by seven leading retailers together with the Horticultural Trades Association, which represents 2,500 garden centres, and Peel Holdings, owners of the 280-store Trafford Centre in Manchester. The retailers backing the group are Next, Game, Hobbycraft, Ikea, Kingfisher (B&Q), Asda and Tesco.

Lined up against them are a wide variety of interest groups, ranging from small business groups to the shopworkers' union Usdaw, the Keep Sunday Special campaign, supported by the Mothers' Union and the United Reform Church, and some 220 MPs who have signed an early day motion opposing the liberalisation of the Sunday trading laws.

On the face of it, the rules on Sunday trading are archaic, and are influenced by the church in a nation which no longer sees Sunday as a special day. What better reason then to sweep them away, and reinforce Britain's image as the true secular nation of Europe?

Then we find out who the major backers of this "Deregulate" group are. Of them, Asda and Tesco increasingly open every single one of their major stores for 24 hours. They have to shut at around 10pm on a Saturday before they can reopen at either 10 or 11 the next day, to then close at either 4 or 5. IKEA and Kingfisher operate some of the biggest eyesores in the country, the monolithic huge warehouses filled with either crap chic furniture or every item associated with DIY under the sun, which also increasingly open later and later. Only Game and Next are real high street retailers, who don't have many major-of-town stores on the much unloved industrial estates.

The only two days on which all the major retail businesses have to shut are Easter Sunday and Christmas Day. Some also shut on Boxing Day, but that's down to individual choice on their behalf. Is it not too much to ask for employees not to be in some cases ordered in to work on just two days a year? As for Sunday trading, all those who want to open when they like already open longer and longer, and in some cases have websites which don't have any such restrictions. Is it also too much to ask for them to only be allowed to open for 6 hours one day a week? It gives all the workers some additional time to spend in either leisure or with their families. This is without even going into the further effect it will have on the small businesses, which if the government predictions are anything to go by, will have ceased to exist by 2015 because of the buying power, intimidatory tactics and arrogance of the likes of Tesco and Asda. Capitalism ensares and debases us all as it is, and any further liberalisation of opening hours would just be a sop to the likes of the CBI, whose only remit is to increase profits and lobby government to crush any opposition to that ideology.

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i once worked in retail and I have to say it is worrying that they intend to extend opening hours. I know from experience that, although Sunday working is voluntary, the retail giants don't hesitate to push you into working. They are not interested in giving workers a break, they just want to pile up the pressure as far as possible to feed their bottom line. The line must be drawn at some point to halt the rampant growth in capitalism.

It's not just the Deregulate group that wwould cheer for this piece of legislation to be gone, Argos near me was open on Christmas day, last year!!

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