2012 is going to be a historic year for the United Kingdom. The Olympic Games, the Diamond Jubilee and various other big events will make our lives more exciting, bring in thousands of tourists and help our economy. We have already shown that we can get the big things right, with large infrastructure projects for the Olympics changing the landscape of East London, but now we have to focus on getting the details right. That is what my 10 minute rule bill aims to do: allowing shops to stay open late on Sundays in order to accommodate the increased demand caused by such major one-off events.
I believe that Sunday has, and always should have, a special status in our culture and society. However, when pubs, cinemas and restaurants are allowed to stay open late on Sundays, it makes little sense not to extend this privilege to shops, at least on a temporary basis when events call for it. In order to help our economy, we must make sure that everyone knows that Britain is flexible and open for business.
That is why I’ve proposed not a complete overhaul of Sunday trading legislation, but an amendment to make it more flexible, convenient and local. With events, such as the London Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, coming up next year, I believe we need to ensure that we reap the benefits to their full potential. By allowing shops to remain open longer on Sundays during big events we will create jobs, increase disposable income and help deprived areas.
The French have recently passed a bill allowing the decision makers to extend shop opening hours in specific tourist areas. I ask, why can we not take a similar attitude? Why don’t we allow councils to alter shopping hours during major events that bring in thousands of tourists? I say: if the French can do it, so can we.
The Olympics presents a massive opportunity for Britain. It will mean hundreds of thousands of extra tourists, not to say anything about the thousands of journalists, world leaders and athletes. It is our responsibility to make these the best games ever both for our country and for the participants. This, in my view, includes allowing London to apply for permission to allow shops to remain open late on Sundays. This will help the shop owners, the tourists and the overall economy. It’s a win-win situation for all. With the retail sector in London growing rapidly and hordes of tourists brought in by the Olympic Games, it is clear that shops will find it hard to manage the additional pressures without some help from the government and local councils.
However, this is not only about London and the Olympics. There are numerous events, such as the 2012 British Open in my own constituency of Fylde that could utilise the same provision and not only bring in more revenue for local businesses but also make such events and areas more convenient for tourists. By making the whole experience of attending a major event hassle free, we can stimulate our economy by presenting an enticing and welcoming Britain that will make tourists come back time after time. In order to get things done, we need to start now.
Mark Menzies is the Conservative MP for Fylde