MP calls for end to ‘discriminatory tampon tax’

Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP speaking in the House of Commons on Monday.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP speaking in the House of Commons on Monday.

Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan has put her name to a Commons amendment calling for an end to VAT on women's sanitary products.

Goods categorised as essential attract a zero per cent VAT rating, but sanitary products, such as tampons, are categorised as ‘luxury’ goods and attract a minimum five per cent rate. MPs have called on the Government to remove this unfair levy.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, Mrs Trevelyan said: "I put my name to this amendment because I have long thought that this is a bizarre and discriminatory tax on sanitary products and it needs sorting out.

"Perhaps in the 1970s, when I am sure the Minister, like myself, was at school, the luxury goods description still made sense as many women were not using a product which has now transformed our ability to be freed up from the monthly restrictions of periods. Many girls at school with me were off games every month because they did not have access to what is now considered a completely normal part of our sanitary products and frees young women to be sportswomen.

"I ask the Minister to be brave, to think about this and to stand up for all young women."

The UK does not have the ability to extend a zero rating to new products unilaterally. The UK has a more extensive zero rating than most, if not all, other member states, but any change to EU VAT law would require a proposal from the European Commission and the support of all 28 member states. Without that agreement, the UK Government is not permitted to lower rates below five per cent.

Treasury Minister David Gauke said: "I undertake to raise the issue with the European Commission and with other member states and to set out the view, which has been reflected in this debate, that it should be possible for a member state to apply a zero rate to sanitary products."

Mrs Trevelyan said: "I am pleased the Minister has listened to me and other colleagues and has promised to do all he can to have this unfair tax removed. It is ludicrous that the EU is able to decide how British goods should be taxed and goes to show how little control we have over our own affairs. The Minister has my full support in his campaign to fight Europe on this outdated measure."