Constituents have contacted me regarding their concerns about the recent vote on the 'Tampon Tax'.
I did not vote against removing the VAT charged on sanitary products. In fact, I support the repeal of any such tax. The meaning of the vote this week has been misrepresented by commentators. To explain the meaning of the vote, I must give some detail about how VAT is charged.
VAT is a Europe-wide tax. As a member of the European Union, the UK cannot remove VAT unilaterally from any item. To ‘zero-rate’ items, the UK must obtain the consent of all 28 member states of the EU and of the European Commission.
There are some items that are already zero-rated, such as food and children’s clothing. These levels were negotiated in the 1970s, when the VAT harmonisation rules were agreed between member states.
Regrettably, therefore, the House of Commons does not have the power to repeal the VAT charged by itself: it is a change that must be agreed across Europe.
I turn now to the vote itself. We were not, as is being reported, voting on whether to abolish VAT on sanitary products. The motion committed the Government to conduct a three-month negotiation exercise with the 28 member states and the European Commission. MPs must vote on the wording of the motion put forward.
The Government took the view that the approach set out in the motion was unlikely to lead to success (not least because many EU members regard the UK as having more than its fair share of zero-rated items). The three-month limit in the motion was an unrealistic timeframe, particularly as the UK does not have any power to demand such a timetable.
As the Government is negotiating the UK’s EU membership rules, it makes sense for the Government to fold this issue into discussions about powers which the Government are seeking to take back from EU control. The Minister undertook to work on this issue. With that commitment, I voted for the most realistic option, namely to support the Government’s commitment to seek to negotiate the consent from the 28 EU member states and the EU Commission.
This is a timely example of why we must renegotiate our relationship with the EU. I support our Prime Minister in his efforts to do so.
Should anyone have further questions on this issue do email me at firstname.lastname@example.org