Yet the Department of the Environment has done no research or analysis on the effects of liberalising Sunday trading, despite claims that 'sustainable development' and 'the precautionary approach' dominate its thinking. Nor has any other part of government.
Sainsbury's says its energy consumption and lorry journeys have risen slightly since it opened half its 338 supermarkets on Sundays. Those stores consume more power and fuel to stay warm and lit, with more air pollution as a consequence. Fresh produce accounts for the extra deliveries.
The John Lewis partnership, an opponent of Sunday trading, has estimated the extra heating oil, gas and electricity consumed per year if it were to open all of its Waitrose supermarkets and department stores. About 21,000 extra tonnes of carbon dioxide, the chief global warming gas, would be produced. It also forecasts 200 extra lorry deliveries a week.
The Association for the Conservation of Energy estimates that an extra 500,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year would flow from heating and lighting most shops on Sundays. More pollution and climate-changing gases could result from an acceleration in the already rapid growth in traffic.
Most analysts believe the deregulation options in the Government's Sunday Trading Bill tend to favour superstores and large supermarkets at the expense of smaller, local food shops. Extra journeys and traffic would follow, with more people driving to the nation's 900 superstores, many on the edge of towns and cities.
Sunday trading proponents claim an extra day of opening merely shifts some shopping trips from Saturdays and weekdays, with no net increase in car mileage directly attributable. Opponents accept this may be true for most households. But make any activity more convenient and some people will always do more of it, they argue.
The Departments of Transport and the Environment do not have any research to establish who is correct. Nor has the supermarkets' think-tank, the Institute of Grocery Distribution. A spokeswoman for Sainsbury's said: 'Our modern stores are heated entirely by the waste heat from bakeries and refrigerators, and we have to run those seven days a week anyway.'
A shift to widespread Sunday trading could result in an extra 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year being emitted when the Government wants to cut 10 million tonnes per annum from Britain's forecast emissions in 2000, to comply with the Rio climate protection treaty.
John Gummer, Secretary of State for the Environment, who supports the liberalisation of Sunday trading, said there was 'no overwhelming reason' to believe it would harm the environment.
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