Today I have been sitting on the Finance Bill Committee which is scrutinising the government's Finance bill. An amendment to the bill aims to push the government into action regarding VAT on sanitary products. It calls for a serious examination of this idea over the next 12 months during which time the government can assess the costs and benefits of such a move.
We know that there is huge public support for abolishing VAT on sanitary products which currently stands at 5%. A recent change.org petition asking the Chancellor to look into this issue – the so called ‘tampon tax’ has reached nearly 250,000 supporters. David Cameron was asked what he would do about this issue by a student at the University of East Anglia in the run up to the general election and he agreed to look into it again. So we know that this amendment would have support across parties and amongst the general public.
I am pleased the amendment makes particular reference to woman under 25. Girls on average have a requirement to start purchasing sanitary products at the age of 12 and having to do so, should have as small a financial impact as possible. Girls at this age are in full time education and so we have a responsibility to make sure that what can be a big personal transition, is a limited financial burden.
I have found examples of bizarre VAT exempt products that included alcoholic jellies, edible sugar flowers, exotic meats such as crocodile and kangaroo. And perhaps most ironically of all - you do not pay VAT on Millionaire shortbread?!
I am mindful that there are European implications regarding VAT to consider here, however I am certain that European restrictions on abolishing VAT on sanitary products is more oversight than intent.
I have every faith that there would be support for addressing this injustice at a European level and I would urge the government to investigate those possibilities.
This amendment would give the Government 12 months, ample time to do just that.
We can all have a bit of a giggle about these ridiculous contradictions, but actually what an insult to women and girls. It's a travesty that tampons and towels have ever been deemed to be a luxury purchase, they are absolute necessities for millions of women and I hope the Government will do the right thing, and adopt this amendment.
For more information and to add your name to the change.org petition click here