Readers endorse Sunday closing

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The Independent Online
AN OVERWHELMING majority of Independent readers who responded to our Sunday trading survey want the day of rest to stay special.

In all, 5,824 people returned the questionnaire - the biggest response the paper has had to a reader survey. Of those supporting particular proposals (several rejected them all), 62.1 per cent backed the option of allowing small shops, DIY stores and gardening centres to open, with big shops opening only on the four Sundays before Christmas.

The Keep Sunday Special Campaign, promoters of that option, rejoiced in the result - revealed hours before MPs vote tonight on a late amendment to the Sunday Trading Bill, and on the three options contained in the Bill.

Alisdair Barron, campaign spokesman, said: 'This is great news. People want to keep Sunday as a special day, and they have said so.'

Regular churchgoers made up slightly more of the respondents than a formal poll would expect: 38 per cent, against 30 per cent in the whole population who say they attend a religious service at least once a month (NOP/Independent poll in September). However, the Keep Sunday Special option remained favourite among the 3,665 respondents not attending church regularly: 56 per cent backed it, and 64.3 per cent said Sunday should remain special.

The option of allowing small shops to open at will with big shops restricted to six hours won least support: 12.9 per cent overall, and 17.1 per cent of non-churchgoers. The Shopping Hours Reform Council, promoting that option, attacked the survey.

David Thompson, its spokesman, said: 'The questions were written in such a way that the result bears no resemblance to what the majority want. Supporting the Keep Sunday Special option would put 140,000 shopworkers out of their Sunday jobs.'

He said his council's option would allow Sunday to remain special, emphasising the Government had agreed to an amendment enabling staff to opt out of working on Sundays.

Total deregulation was backed by 17.3 per cent of all respondents, and 24.1 per cent of non-churchgoers.

----------------------------------------------------------------- Sunday trading, total responses 5,824 ----------------------------------------------------------------- How many respondents in total said 'yes' to each of the following questions 1. No restrictions on Sunday opening. . . . . . . . .1,008 (17.3%) 2. Small shops to open at any time, and large shops and supermarkets to open for six hours. . . . . .750 (12.9%) 3. Small shops, DIY stores and garden centres to open at any time, large stores and supermarkets to open only on the four Sundays before Christmas. . 3,619 (62.1%) How many respondents in total said 'yes' to each of the following statements 1. I want to be able to shop anywhere on Sunday although it may mean some small and corner shops may close. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,004 (17.2%) 2. I would not mind working on Sunday if it meant others were allowed to shop. . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,105 (19.0%) 3. Sunday should remain 'special'. . . . . . . . . . 4,346 (74.6%) -----------------------------------------------------------------

Late amendment, page 2

Leading article; Letters, page 15