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MS 4: Tampon Tax
#1
Jo Swinson, Minister for Women and Equalities

Mr Speaker,

I rise today to address the House on this government’s efforts to tackle period poverty. 

This is a government that is proactively seeking to tackle period poverty. We sincerely believe that nobody should be forced to do without necessities - that it is a tragedy if anyone misses out on their schooling or misses out an opportunity because of the lack of sanitary products available to them, or endures such easily preventable discomfort or upset. We have all heard the statistics and heard the stories: of how one in ten young women in England struggle to pay for pads and tampons, of how the high cost of products has seen one in five women in Scotland forced to improvise with products such as old clothes and toilet paper. 
 
There is a £25 million line item, contained within the budget, to provide free menstrual products in schools. This is, I think, a big and important step. It will provide a relief, both financial and emotional, to the most deprived of students, as well as providing a source of reassurance and comfort for all students who are worried about being caught unprepared. Missed school days as a result of period poverty will be a thing of the past. 

We believe that nobody should be left out of pocket by buying basic necessities, and that it is a market failure if one gender is left significantly worse off after making their essential purchases. It is this spirit that motivated this government’s legislative push to end the pink tax. It is this spirit that motivates us as we continue to work to repeal the tampon tax. It is this government’s belief that abolishing the tampon tax is possible within the EU - in fact, as earlier victories over the reading tax shows, concentrated attempts to change VAT rules to remove anachronisms and absurdities, especially when strengthened by British leadership, are often very successful. 

Whether we stay or leave the EU, this government will abolish the tampon tax. By concentrating our diplomatic efforts on this, this government believes we can swiftly achieve a plan to end the tampon tax. In 2016, the British government secured a commitment to allow the zero-rating of menstrual products under a planned VAT shakeup, including the agreement of every other EU leader of the principle behind such a change. 

In 2018, the European Commission proposed new VAT rules that will give member-states more flexibility in how to implement VAT. It is worth noting that the existence of the tampon tax was not some deliberate ploy to place burdensome taxes on necessities - it is a reflection of unintended consequences in policymaking, the worthwhile goal of ensuring coordination in VAT rates inadvertently making it harder to zero-rate products that were not already “grandfathered” in. The new rules mean we can be far more proactive and creative in zero-rating products than we were before, and it is this new authority that is allowing us to zero-rate ebooks. 

And so though these rules will come into place uniformly from January 2022 - and we will be setting up the infrastructure to abolish it from day one and continuing to provide funds to nullify the impact of the tampon tax such as through our fund to abolish period poverty in schools - we will be lobbying the EU to allow VAT in cases such as this to be zero-rated immediately. Upon success, we will bring forward legislation as soon as possible to update tax laws accordingly.

Mr Speaker, I commend this statement to the House. 
Grant Smith
Liberal Democrat MP for Leeds North West (2005-present)

Media Unknown, Constituency Appeal, Campaign Organiser, Fundraiser Extraordinaire 
Previously: Sir Lachlan Domnhall Coinneach Duncan MacMahon; Graham Adiputera; I think I played some dull Labour bloke at one point
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