In 2010, the Prime Minister gave a speech in which he said that GDP was a crude measure of economic success and wellbeing was a more important factor. Well, ‘amen’ to that. Then in August 2014, the so called ‘Family Test’ was announced. This would be a safeguard against any policy idea or suggestion that might undermine family life in this country. Again, this seemed sensible and rational.
Then in the Summer Budget this year, George Osborne announced plans to further liberalise Sunday Trading. The very idea is at odds with all the government’s rhetoric on family. As Paul Goodman, the editor of Conservative Home said, the plans are ‘anti-family’.
For many Christians, however I suspect there is an underlying tension. Why, when the very principle of Sunday trading was lost so long ago, are we bothering to fight it this time? Surely allowing a few shops to stay open later is no great crime?
The principle of time off in common should not be sacrificed on the altar of profit.
Whatever the supposed economic value – Osborne said it would benefit the economy by £1.4bn – the impact on family life will be devastating. And this from a government supposedly intent on supporting families across our nation. Today single earner families on the average OECD wage are liable for a staggering 35 per cent more tax than the average tax level across the rest of the OECD.
Family breakdown costs the Exchequer an estimated £46bn a year. That is more than the government is spending this year on transport, defence and social housing. Further removing time–off in common will only put more strain on the already stretched social fabric of our nation.
Family breakdown costs the Exchequer an estimated £46bn a year. That is more than the government is spending this year on transport, defence and social housing.
Usdaw, a leading workers union surveyed its members and found an overwhelming majority, 9 in 10 were opposed to the move. A survey by the Association of Convenience Stores showed a majority thought the move would put pressure on families. Meanwhile the Social Marketing Foundation decided to run the Sunday Trading proposal by the government’s own Family test. It failed.
Organisations like CARE are now working hard to persuade the government to think again. The principle of time off in common should not be sacrificed on the altar of profit. God has made us as relational beings and it is He who sets the solitary in families and decreed that blood is thicker than water. Families are vital to a healthy and prosperous society. To require shift workers and retail staff to give up more time on a Sunday, time they could be spending investing in family relationships is both short-sighted and wrong.
Recently, Jeremy Corbyn the newly elected Labour leader said he supported the campaign to keep Sunday special. With the Conservative conference now underway it is time for the Prime Minister to explain why, given his previous statements, he is supporting the idea that Sunday Trading should be expanded. The concept of the family is too important to be treated in this way.
Talking a good game and then failing to properly support the family through appropriate legislation is simply unacceptable. We all want a healthy and strong society. For that to happen, the family must be at its very heart.
Nola Leach is CEO of CARE (Christian Action Research and Education)