Over 24 hours after sending my email I’ve had a reply. I’m not really satisfied, because I think that a majority on this vote could have taken the issue to the EU with more credibility.
We negotiated with the EU in 2000 and got the tax cut from 17.5% to 5%, and I firmly believe that with enough support and campaigning we could remove the tax completely…across the EU. Why should UK women have more privilege regarding sanitary products compared to women of other EU member states?
Dear Dr Cooper
Thank you for contacting me about tax on sanitary products. I am happy to re-assure you about my reasons for voting the way I did on a motion on a recent Finance Bill.
Firstly, I appreciate this is an important issue for a great many people and I entirely support an extension of the discounted 5% rate of VAT charged on women’s sanitary products. However, this issue is governed by EU legislation. It is one of the few areas of tax raising powers that are controlled in a similar way across all 28 member states. EU legislation determines a very specific set of products that may be zero rated (have no VAT). As a result, it would be against the law for one country, in this case the UK, to extend unilaterally the escape of existing rates, or to introduce new ones.
It would have been perfectly possible for me to have supported the motion in order to show support for what I hope will be a conclusion reached across the EU in the coming years. However, it would have been an entirely futile thing to do. I make a point of only voting where I believe, that by so doing, I can bring about change. I have followed the debate very closely and was re-assured to hear the Treasury Minister say “. as this debate illustrates, there is considerable cross-party support for the UK to abolish VAT on sanitary products. To that end, I undertake to raise the issue with the European Commission and with other member states, and to set out the view, which has been reflected in this debate, that it should be possible for a member state to apply a zero rate for sanitary products.” Earlier in his speech he set out clearly why a unilateral approach was illegal under EU law.
If, like me, you find this frustrating that an area of tax law such as this is controlled in such a constrained way across the European Union, I hope you will support the Reform Agenda which will see a much more devolved set of tax raising powers. As a result of the vote, I have been described in fairly strident terms by a number of constituents. I hope that this reply has set out clearly why I am totally in support of a zero rate exemption for sanitary products, but one that to be achieved legally and not by some vain, glorious and totally in-effective Parliamentary motion. I can assure you that I will keep a close watch on this issue and make sure that the Government’s discussions with our European Partner’s and our Reform Agenda reflects your and my very real concern on this issue.
With best wishes
Member of Parliament for Newbury
I’m happy to see that the Treasury Minister said he would take this issue up with Parliament, but this is not news to me. Such a close vote outcome suggests this should be done and would be supported.
It’s hard to find anything concrete with a Google search of ‘Conservative Party Reform Agenda’ so I can’t say whether I support this stance or not – I have asked for clarification regarding what of their manifesto this refers to. I’d hate this very important issue become part of the Tory propaganda to persuade voters to support their reforms.
We’r still fighting for this Tax to be cut, but the petitions and public response to the Parliamentary vote has certainly raised the profile of our cause, and I hope it stays in the spotlight…but for the right reasons.
I replied to him:
Dear Richard,Thank you for your reply. I appreciate that you replied personally, and very clearly. It’s great to hear that you support the cause – but as with the other constituents you have heard from via Twitter and email, I’m still unhappy with the way in which you approached this support. This is clearly a simple difference of opinion in the ways of expressing support, which I respect.If you are a supporter of this issues I and other constituents would appreciate you being more outspoken on your website and Twitter accounts to communicate this, in addition to keeping an eye on it. I ask this because the small amount of information available online regarding your stance on this issue is in 140 characters on Twitter (not easily accessible) or simply your name listed on the Independent article as an MP who voted No. I believe this lack of detailed information is what has lead to the strong negative response on Twitter, emails, and the ‘strident terms’ you have referred to. You stated on Twitter on Tuesday that you would publish something on your website,
I am disappointed that you misunderstand what happened in this vote. details will be posted on my website tomorrow https://t.co/cmFSGJI7o8
— Richard Benyon (@RichardBenyonMP) October 28, 2015
however as of this morning I cannot see it on the front page, or under any of your website’s ‘Campaign’ headings. I am sure many of the constituents who did not personally email you would be interested to hear what you clearly laid out below, and get a better understanding of the reasons you voted No.