MPs in 1066 Country voted against removing the so-called ‘tampon tax’ currently levied on women’s sanitary products.
The motion, brought by Labour, was defeated by 305 votes to 287 in the House of Commons.
The tax means women pay a five per cent VAT levy on sanitary products classified as ‘non-essential luxury items’ by the European Union (EU).
Both Hastings and Rye MP Amber Rudd and Bexhill and Battle’s MP Huw Merriman voted against the motion.
But both MPs told the Observer they supported the principle that sanitary products should have a zero per cent levy.
The vote came after an online petition labelled ‘Stop taxing periods. Period’ called on Whitehall to back the campaign.
The petition attracted more than 250,000 signatures.
Ms Rudd said: “The UK currently applies the lowest possible reduced rate of VAT at five per cent on sanitary products, the average rate applied in the EU is just over 17 per cent.
“I support the principle of ensuring that sanitary products are at zero per cent VAT.
“The best way to achieve this is to support the minister, David Gauke, in his stated intention of working with the EU to remove the five per cent minimum VAT rate currently attached.”
Leading up to the vote, campaigners highlighted how items including helicopters, private jets and crocodile steaks could be exempt but not sanitary products.
“If you value the functioning of those who menstruate at least as much as you enjoy your flying crocodile Fridays then sign our petition and join our campaign,” said a statement on the campaign page.
“Help to put an end to the marginalisation of issues traditionally associated with women by demanding a zero tax rate for sanitary products.”
Mr Merriman said: “Contrary to what may have been reported on some campaign websites, I voted for the government’s proposal to seek the consent of the 28 EU member countries to reduce the VAT from five per cent to zero.
“As a member of the EU, the UK cannot unilaterally zero-rate any item from VAT without each of the 28 other country members of the EU, and the European Commission, giving its approval.
“The lowest the VAT rate can be set without this approval is five per cent.
“This is the current VAT rate for sanitary products.
“The matter of reducing VAT from five per cent to zero for sanitary products was recently debated in the House of Commons.
“I support the idea sanitary products should not be taxed at all.
“A number of MPs argued the UK should be free to set this level of tax and wanted to push this into legislation.
“The government reminded the House of Commons that if Parliament brought in a law to remove VAT from any product without the consent of the 28 EU members, this would be unlawful.
“The reason for this is laws from England and Wales and Scotland must comply with EU law or will be struck out by the courts.
“I could not support a law which would be obviously struck out.
“To do so would be antagonistic to other European countries, would disappoint constituents when the court overturned the decision and would not be a good use of time or taxpayer funds.
“An amendment was brought forward which would have committed the government to conduct a three-month negotiation exercise with the 28 EU member countries, and the European Commission, to gain their consent to zero-rate sanitary products. “The government took the view that this approach was unlikely to lead to success. Instead, the government pledged to take this matter up with counterparts across Europe.
“I voted on the side which I felt was straight, honest and did not raise expectations.”
A statement on the ‘Stop taxing periods. Period’ petition page, urging people to sign before the vote said: “Periods are no luxury. You can ‘opt-in’ to extravagance.
“You cannot choose to menstruate. Despite this, a whole heap of disadvantages have been created for those who do.”
To view the full statement and petition visit www.change.org/p/george-osborne-stop-taxing-periods-period.
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