Make Sundays free! Where in Tory philosophy are grounds for telling people how to spend the day

There’s talk of the Government making permanent its decision to relax the rules on Sunday trading during the Olympics. Former Yorkshire Conservative MP Geoffrey Lawler argues that those within the party opposing this are verging on hypocrisy.

I am sure that it has not escaped the attention of others that it is an irony, if not perhaps even hypocritical, that many of the Conservative MPs and others in the party opposing the possible permanent extension of Sunday trading hours are amongst the most zealous when it comes to advocating deregulation in the economy.

You shouldn’t have all these regulations holding business back, so many petty rules governing our lives – especially these nasty EU laws restricting working time – they say. But it is apparently perfectly alright to dictate to people who want to shop on a Sunday, or work in shops on a Sunday, that they can only do so within certain strict limits.

In what part of Conservative philosophy of freedom of choice is there any room for telling people what they should or should not do on Sundays? As long as people are willing to work and people are wanting to shop, why can’t they be allowed to do so at whatever time is convenient for them?

I remember the battle first time around to allow Sunday trading in 1985 which was one of the few occasions on which Margaret Thatcher’s government was defeated. It was the only time as an MP that I wrote in high umbrage to the Whips demanding action against colleagues who had taken such an anti-Conservative position. It seems that for some, times have not changed.

The same Conservative MPs seeking to continue the restrictions on Sunday trading would be up in arms, I am sure, if the Government told businesses that they must only open at certain times on any other day of the week.

It is all dressed up as ‘keeping Sunday special’, when what many of the objectors really mean is that it is infringing on the concept of a Christian Sunday. Fortunately in this country religion does not come into politics in the way that it does in the United States and God forbid that it ever should.

It is no role of legislators to impose their religious will on the public. If they want to keep their own Sundays special, that’s fine; but we have no business trying to prevent others from spending their Sundays in whatever way they want.

Geoffrey Lawler was Conservative MP from Bradford North from 1983 to 1987 and is now Director of the Leeds based political consultancy, the Public Affairs Company.

What do you think? Should Sunday be like every other day in terms of what we can and cannot do? Or are there good reasons – social as well as religious – for observing the Fourth Commandment? © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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