Labour MP Stella Creasy perfectly explained why sanitary products should not be taxed as luxury items during a debate on Tuesday.
In a discussion, which aimed to address an amendment which could make tampons and sanitary towels exempt from VAT, Stella listed a number of items which are classed as ‘essentials,’ which included Jaffa Cakes, pitta breads and razors. This classification allows them exemption from the tax, whilst sanitary products are still classified as ‘luxury’ items and taxed at 5%.
‘Tampons and sanitary towels, even I’m struggling with the words tonight it seems, have always been considered a luxury. That isn’t by accident, that’s by design of an unequal society, in which the concerns of women are not treated as equally as the concerns of men,’ she explained.
‘Jaffa Cakes are zero rated, now I am not a fan of Jaffa Cakes, let it be known. If you offer me a Jaffa Cake I will refuse, but I do not consider them to be essential to my life. I can give or take them.’
‘I recognise that razors are [also] zero rated, judging by some of the members opposite, the opportunity to shave everyday is for many of them a human right. They are cleanly shaven, I’m sure they would be concerned to be charged in that way. So too perhaps one we can all agree on, as a necessity.’
‘Pitta bread is zero rated. What is the kebab, without a good pitta bread around it? It is a necessity?’
‘It is when you start looking at what is described as a necessity and what is described as a luxury, that you see the inequalities in this debate.’
In addition to her impressive speech, Stella also became frustrated with Conservative MP Bill Cash, who backed the tax exemption but could not bring himself to use the words ‘tampon’ or ‘sanitary towel’, instead referring to the items as ‘these products’.
She insisted that until he said the words, she would not sit down – and so he eventually did utter them, sending cheers of support throughout the House of Commons.
The gathered MPs were debating starting a negotiation with the European Union over reducing the 5% VAT rate on sanitary items, but ended up voting down the proposed amendment, 305 to 287.