Vicky Spratt | Deputy Editor | Monday, 26 October 2015

Corbyn Leads The Charge Against The Tampon Tax

Corbyn Leads The Charge Against The Tampon Tax

The Debrief: Eurosceptic Tory MPs are joining Labour against the Tampon Tax

Good news! If Labour wins a vote in the House of Commons today George Osborne will have to go to the European Union to negotiate tax exemption on tampons (and other sanitary items like sanitary towels and mooncups)…

Helicopters, alcoholic jellies and exotic meats (including crocodile and kangaroo)… no, not Donald Trump’s weekly shopping list. This is a list of so-called ‘essential’ tax-exempt products in the UK. 

However, every month most women, of a certain age, have to fork out over 5% in VAT on sanitary products like sanitary towels and tampons because the European Union decrees that they are ‘luxury items’.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really think about tampons as a luxury item. I guess maybe they are if you buy the ones that come in a pink tin with a bow around it from… *Silence*

Women have to part with around £3 just because we were born with ovaries. The tax on sanitary products used to be 20%, but it was reduced down to 5% where it has remained since 2001. 

It’s a pain isn’t it? We don’t choose to have periods and we certainly don’t choose to spend money to stop them going all over our clothes, towels and bed sheets. 

The campaign Stop Taxing Our Periods has received much attention this year. Back in February their petition calling for an end to the 5% tax on sanitary products got hundreds of thousands of signatures. However, David Cameron said there was precious little he could do to change things because the application of VAT in the European Union was governed by EU law. 

Well, if Labour wins a vote in Parliament today it could well be that George Osborne will have to go to the EU and negotiate VAT exemption on sanitary products. 

Jeremy Corbyn is close to scoring his first victory in the House of Commons as Labour leader tonight, backed by rebellious Eurosceptic Tories. It might seem somewhat unlikely that Eurosceptic right-wingers would rally behind a feminist cause and ally themselves with the let but it seems they will jump on any bandwagon at this point to make their point about Europe’s control over law in the UK heard. 

As of last night, at least seven Tory MPs had signed up to the Labour amendment to the Finance Bill, which was tabled by MP Paula Sherriff. The Tories have a thin working majority in the house, which means that just nine have to side with Labour on this to impose legislative change. 

The amendment also states that a minister must update Parliament on the progress of negotiations over the tampon tax by April of next year.

Paula has said that she is delighted to receive support from MPs of all political persuasions, some Lib Dems have also backed the amendment as have the SNP.

‘It’s something that has bugged me for years, I’ve signed petitions on it in the past but now that I’m an MP, I can actually have a forum to do something about it,’ she said.

‘I’m grateful for that cross-party support. For me, it’s an issue fundamentally of what’s right and what’s wrong. Sanitary products are an essential, not luxury, item. Yet they are taxed while goods such as pistachio nuts, helicopter repairs and crocodile steaks are not.’

Yes, Paula! By tomorrow we’ll know whether our monthly dash to buy sanitary products is going to be marginally cheaper in the near future and whether our Chancellor is going to have to go to Brussels and say tampon out loud, lots. 

5% of £3 or so may not sound like much, but campaigners say, on average, women spend £492 a year on their periods. Over the course of a lifetime that’s £18,450, of which £922 is tax. 

It’s bad enough that women across the country have to pay because they have periods full stop. But this is a matter of principal. The fact that sanitary items are not classed as necessary or essential, like food, is just unacceptable. 


You might also be interested in:

We Speak To The University Union That Has Officially Banned The Tampon Tax

Canada To Abolish The Tampon Tax 

Why Are We Getting Taxed For Tampons And not Crocodile Meat


Follow Vicky on Twitter @Victoria_Spratt

Picture: Getty

Tags: Politics, Periods