My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to debate Sunday Trading in connection with the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Games begin in just over three months and, on all sides of the House, we are determined to make a success of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Both occasions will draw a significant number of visitors from home and abroad to the events themselves, to our tourist attractions, to our pubs and restaurants, and also to our shops.
This is an opportunity for our runners, swimmers and cyclists to showcase their talents. They will be seeking to emulate the achievements of the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, and of the other distinguished Olympians and Paralympians in this House. It is also an occasion to show the rest of the world that the UK is open for business. We will be showcasing everything that the UK has to offer at a time when the world's attention is on us, and that includes our retail sector. The Games offer a unique chance for everyone to sample the UK's superb retail outlets. We have to do everything we can to fully exploit this unique opportunity in a way that fits with the schedule of the Games.
At present, however, the Sunday Trading Act 1994 limits the opening times on Sundays of certain shops with a relevant floor area of more than 3,000 square feet. In particular, the Act restricts them to opening on a Sunday for a maximum six-hour period between 10 am and 6 pm. Just imagine the situation: it is the evening of
The Bill that we are discussing today will give shops the opportunity, should they wish to take it, to open for longer to make the most of the economic benefits of the Games. It presents retailers with a chance to increase sales, shop workers with a chance to earn some extra money, consumers the flexibility to shop when they want to and it could help to increase temporary employment. It will be good for the Games and good for the economy in these challenging times.
I recognise that the use of the fast-track procedure for this Bill is not ideal. However, I believe that exceptional use of this procedure is justified given the imminence of the Games. We do not want hundreds of thousands of visitors to be welcomed to the UK with closed signs across our shopping centres, and not just here in London.