Now, UKIP periodically make a sound case for a policy Conservatives should embrace with glee. Their pledge to abolish VAT on sanitary products is no exception. While the policy is UKIP’s bid to appeal to women, it is entirely sensible and deserves cross-party support.
The Huffington Post reported this story with a smug headline: “Even This is about the EU”. Yet there is no going around it, it is about the EU. Which is why none of the other parties, all wrapped inside the pro-EU establishment, can fulfil this same promise.
When Cameron was asked about removing VAT on tampons during an #AskTheLeaders debate, he blushed and said: “It’s a great idea”. Yet, he admitted abolishing certain types of VAT “is difficult to do” specifically “within the framework of European law”, though he will “look into it”.
I’m not holding my breath.
You don’t have to take UKIP’s word for it either. A Change.org petition was launched by Laura Coryton 11 months ago, garnering 220,000 signatures urging Cameron to include sanitary products in the list of essential products, free of VAT. The campaign has Facebook and Twitter presence, and dedicated hashtags.
The petition states: “Following the Union’s decision to standardise tax across the continent, no separate member state can revise VAT allocations without the EU’s permission.” Undoubtedly, the EU’s undeserved reputation for ‘gender equality’ is stained by this tax.
The so-called ‘Tampon Tax’ was imposed as soon as Britain joined the Single Market in 1973, though the rate was originally required by EU law to stay 17.5 percent. Admittedly, a campaign by Labour MP Dawn Primarolo managed to put sanitary products on a reduced rate of 5 percent VAT, now enshrined in an EU Directive dating back to 2006.
For some reason this reduced VAT list categorises tampons along with “admission to sporting events” and “to shows, theatres, circuses, fairs, amusement park”, etc.
The absurdity behind this rule can’t be emphasised enough. A VAT on tampons implies they are seen as an unnecessary luxury in the eyes of the predominantly male EU bureaucracy.
This is barbarism of the highest order and should astonish any advocate of Britain’s continued EU membership. Rather, as most sensible people would understand, sanitary products are as essential to women as food and drink — a luxury if we were in the 1920s, perhaps.
Abolishing the ‘Tampon Tax’ is undeniably pragmatic. The Conservative Party should be true to its spirit and get rid of unnecessary taxes wherever they are.
Moreover, the case for listing sanitary products as an essential item is compelling, and Conservatives ought to go with the flow of public opinion. The government which achieves the abolition of this form of VAT will certainly reap the goodwill of at least half the population.
The problem is the tax cannot be abolished unless we Get Britain Out of the EU. The only way Parliament can decide on our VAT policies rather them being decided by the whims of Eurocrats is to restore Britain’s national sovereignty, so fair and sensible policies can prevail.
This article is crossposted in The Commentator.