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  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

The Protestant tradition of a sober-suited Sunday, rather than the holiday mood preferred in many Roman Catholic countries, has historically been the strong preference of Anglicans and Nonconformists alike. The *Lord's Day Observance Society was founded by Anglicans in 1831. In spite of their vigilance there now remain relatively few restrictions on Sunday entertainment, yet as recently as 1982 district councils in Wales held a referendum on whether by-laws should be changed to allow local pubs to open on Sunday; two areas out of 15 decided against.

Gambling on Sunday was for many people a stumbling block, and until recently it has been illegal under the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act of 1963; indeed when Britain's first Sunday race meeting took place at Doncaster, in July 1992, it was without the presence of bookies (in motor-racing the British Grand Prix, less associated with betting, was held on a Sunday as early as 1976). But in 1994 parliament passed legislation to make Sunday racing and betting legal, along with every other sporting activity.

The most topical issue in the early 1990s was Sunday trading, which like gambling was still illegal (under the Shops Act of 1950). The Lord's Day lobby, with the Keep Sunday Special Campaign playing a leading role, seemed to stand on unusually firm ground on this issue, enjoying the support of trade unions concerned that shop assistants should not be exploited on their day of rest.

An unprecedented situation developed in the 1991 Christmas season when major chains (headed by Sainsbury and Tesco, but with Marks & Spencer among those abstaining) deliberately flouted the law by opening on Sundays; they argued that the law in England and Wales was invalidated by EC regulations. The government, committed in principle to abolishing restrictions on Sunday trading, brought forward legislation late in 1993; and in a free vote MPs opted to end restrictions on small shops and to allow six hours of trade on Sundays to large stores.

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