Throughout the coronavirus crisis, staff in essential shops have served their communities by continuing to go to work, ensuring families have the food and other necessary goods to ensure they get through lockdown. I have spoken to store managers and frontline workers in both supermarkets and smaller shops, and thoroughly appreciate the fantastic efforts that have been made.
But there are many shops that have not been able to open, and which have lost crucial trade. Even where they have been able to furlough some staff, they are struggling.
Most shops will be able to reopen from 15 June. But they will rightly have to be covid-secure. That means imposing social distancing, and in many cases, reducing the number of customers in store at any one time.
I believe it is right that those shops have every opportunity to make up lost time and lost sales by being allowed to open for longer than six hours on a Sunday.
It is also worth pointing out that many people are now returning to work away from home, and consequently, only have the weekend available to shop. It seems to me that it is fair to allow them more freedom to choose the time when they do their shopping, bearing in mind that a trip will typically take considerably longer than before, because of the queues necessitated to stay safe.
This of course also applies to supermarkets, for whom Sunday is traditionally the busiest day. I am clear that nobody should be forced to work on a Sunday if they do not wish to do so, but in fact there are considerable numbers of people who do wish to work then, especially younger adults. It is also worth noting that supermarkets including Morrison’s and Asda have hired tens of thousands of temporary staff, and in the current economic climate, I very much welcome opportunities for new jobs.
Throughout my short time in parliament, I have been vocal in my support for small businesses, and I will continue to stand up for them at every opportunity. But I also believe that coronavirus has meant that we need to relax some of the traditional restrictions in order to help the UK recover from this horrendous pandemic.