Recently it was reported that I voted against removing the VAT on sanitary products. I want to assure you that this is not the case; that I support zero rating on sanitary products; and that I voted for the Government's proposal to seek the consent of the 28 EU member countries to reduce the VAT from 5% to zero.
It is obvious that sanitary products are an essential item and I support calls for the UK to be able to apply a zero rate to these products. However, as with many matters in relation to the EU, this matter is not straight forward. As it currently stands the 5 per cent rate of VAT on women's sanitary products is the lowest rate currently allowed under EU law. However, I welcome the commitment from Ministers to seek to change EU law to enable us to abolish VAT on these products.
The recent vote in the House of Commons would not have been able to remove the VAT charge on sanitary products. Whilst it is frustrating that these issues cannot be dealt with here in the UK, it would not have been sensible to leave ourselves open to a certain challenge in the European courts. Instead, during the debate, the Minister confirmed that he will go to the EU and look to get sanitary products correctly classed as essential as part of our ongoing negotiations with EU Member states. I supported this approach as I believe it is the best way of achieving the result that I and the public are hoping for.
Any change to EU VAT law would require a proposal from the European Commission and the support of all 28 member states. This process will not be a formality - 26 of the other 27 EU member states currently have a higher rate of VAT on sanitary products than we do - but it is right that we seek to make this change and to fight for zero rating.