Many constituents this week have been in contact to raise their concerns about the VAT imposed on sanitary products, also known as the ‘Tampon Tax’. I wanted to take this opportunity to separate the myths from facts and explain how some people have been deceived by Labour activists and some dishonest campaign websites.
Sanitary products are essentials not ‘luxury items’ and I support the idea that sanitary products should not be taxed at all. This is an unjust tax especially when you consider razors and other shaving materials are zero rated.
The matter of reducing VAT from 5% to zero for sanitary products was recently debated in the House of Commons, but to do so would have been illegal. At the time the Government reminded the House of Commons that if Parliament brought in a law to remove VAT from any product without the consent of the 28 EU members, this would be unlawful and struck out by the courts.
As a member of the EU, the UK cannot unilaterally introduce zero rate VAT without unanimity as it needs the support of the 28 other country members of the EU, and the European Commission, giving its approval. The lowest the VAT rate can be set without this approval is 5%. This is the current VAT rate for sanitary products (so below the 20% VAT rate set for other products).
My vote was cast to support the Government when it told the House of Commons that it would seek to negotiate the consent from the 28 EU member states and the EU Commission. I believe in being realistic and straight with constituents and not making promises which cannot be delivered and lead to disappointment. I have also personally raised the issue with our Member of European Parliament, as I too believe it needs adressing by the European Union.
There is cross-party support for the UK to abolish VAT on sanitary products. This week Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke MP has said he will raise this issue with the European Commission and other member states setting out our views that it should be possible for member states to apply a zero rates to sanitary products. This is something I strongly believe in and it is the correct way to make change happen, it is also further evidence of why we need the EU Referendum when the public decides on our relationship with the EU.
Thank you again to those that have raised this important issue with me.