Eurosceptics rally to join fight to overturn the tampon tax

MP Paula Sherriff
MP Paula Sherriff

MPs fighting for Brexit are set to back calls to reverse the tampon tax as another example of onerous EU red tape.

Tampons are currently classed as a luxury product and face a 5% value added tax which lead campaigner MP Paula Sherriff has described frankly as an unfair 'tax on having a period'.

She's now tabled an amendment to the Budget asking for the tax to be scrapped by the Government. They have previously said the tax can only be changed with EU agreement.

Eurosceptic MPs including dozens of disgruntled Conservatives are expected to flock to back the amendment, which has been publicly backed by Tory back-bencher Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

Ms Sherriff denied her campaign is being hi-jacked by Eurosceptics, many of whom are likely to have voted down her first attempt to change the Finance Bill to remove the tax back in October 2015.

The Labour MP said: "The Tories are looking for ways to explore the disadvantages of the EU, and this is one of them. For me, the key point is getting this ridiculous VAT removed. "Incontinence pads are VAT free, men's viagra is VAT free. Let's purge this myth that sanitary products are a luxury item.

"I will be really pleased if I get this through."

Ms Sherriff goes to Brussels in April to meet with socialist MEPs from across the EU to try and work on a joint campaign to get the tax removed.

And Chancellor George Osborne said this morning he believed he was 'on the verge of getting that agreement' at the EU in the next few days.

However he evaded the question of whether Britain would act alone in scrapping the rate when challenged on the Radio 4 Today Programme.

Second attempt

Ms Sherriff's first attempt at overhauling the tampon tax was thrown out by the Conservatives in October when their highly controversial tax credits plan was voted out on the same evening in the House of Lords.

"The Conservatives voted against the amendment that night. Their whips were rushing around getting their Eurosceptics to vote against it, on the proviso they would seek to negotiate the level of VAT in the future," she said.

"That night tax credits were defeated in the Lords and the party so they would have had the headline that they had been defeated in the Commons and the Lords. It would have been a very bad day for them, so in the end we were defeated in the end by 18 votes.

"I imagine the new amendment will get wider support, it is cross-party after-all, some of the Eurosceptics wanted to sign up to it. I've got no idea whether this will get mass backing, or whether it'll be just one or two Conservatives. But I'm just keeping the objective in mind - to remove VAT off sanitary products, It's about women not being treated as second class citizens."

The speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow MP will decide on Tuesday whether to allow the amendment on the tampon tax in the Finance Bill to be voted on by MPs.

Among those who tabled the motion are Greg Mulholland, Lib Dem MP for Leeds North West and SNP MP Alison Thewliss, Glasgow Central.

Seema Malhotra MP, Labour’s Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: “Women’s sanitary products are not a luxury. George Osborne failed to take the opportunity in his Budget to say that he would take the action called for by Labour and feminist campaigners and seek to get the ‘Tampon Tax’ abolished.

“But we now know that the European Commission is on the verge of offering the opportunity to do just that. George Osborne should work with Labour MEPs and other EU member states to ensure that this unfair tax is abolished once and for all.”

Anti-EU campaign group Vote Leave have also seized on Ms Sherriff's amendment and said today: "The only way to end the tampon tax is to Vote Leave on 23 June."

Currently changes to EU VAT law would require a proposal from the European Commission and the support of all 28 member states. Without that agreement, Britain is not permitted to lower rates below 5%.