FWD is among a group of organisations which have have issued a legal challenge to the Government's consultation process for changes to Sunday trading regulations.
We have joined other members of the Keep Sunday Special group in signing a letter which sets out plans for a future Judicial Review on the proposals to devolve Sunday trading regulations to local authorities. The letter argues that the Government has not carried out a genuine, unbiased consultation process.
The key elements raised in the letter include:
· Evidence that does not fit the government’s agenda has been ignored.
· The government has failed to publish the number of responses to the consultation that supported and opposed their proposals.
· The evidence that has been quoted is irrelevant and outdated. Most recently, the Government used evidence from 1970’s Sweden to justify its decision.
· The consultation amounts to an advocacy document for the proposals instead of being a balanced account of the views expressed by respondents to the consultation, suggesting that the government had made it decision on this policy before considering consultation responses.
· The impact assessments have not been published, including the assessment of the Government’s proposals under the Prime Minister’s own family test.
FWD Chief Executive James Bielby said: "We have serious concerns over the legitimacy of the Government’s arguments for changing Sunday trading regulations, and in particular over the dismissal of evidence presented to the consultation. The summary of evidence strongly suggests that the principles of good government have not been observed in this case. Changing Sunday hours will have a dramatic and potentially devastating effect on thousands of small businesses, and it is vital that the decision-making process is fair and transparent."
A spokesperson for the Keep Sunday Special campaign said: “We do not enter into this action lightly, and do so with a heavy heart. There are fundamental flaws in the process that the Government has taken and full consideration is needed, not the inadequate process that has taken place to date.”
Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said: “Longer opening hours will serve only to benefit out of town stores, whilst hurting high streets, Post Offices and small shops – resulting in a net loss of jobs to the economy. The Government cannot be allowed to get away with publishing a partial, unbalanced response to their consultation and pressing ahead with these plans despite widespread opposition. We fully support this legal action to hold Government to account for their actions.”
Relationships Foundation Director John Ashcroft said: "Hitherto governments of all persuasions have recognised that regulating Sunday trading raises important points of principle regarding the social and economic consequences. If the government now wish to upset what the Prime Minster described as a 'reasonable balance' in the run up to the election, they should not break their promise of full parliamentary debate on the issues. A consultation response that makes spurious claims and ignores evidence should not be the basis for far-reaching changes."
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