"Last month, MPs voted against removing the "tampon tax""
BuzzFeed, 9 November 2015
There's been some confusion over what MPs actually voted on last month, with some saying they voted against getting the 5% VAT rate on sanitary products removed.
EU rules mean that VAT rates can't be lowered below 5% without agreement across Europe. The vote in Parliament was on whether the government should have to set out a "road map" to how it will seek to get sanitary products exempt from these rules—it wasn't a vote to actually remove the 5% VAT rate on sanitary products (which would've been against EU law), or a vote for or against the principle of charging VAT on these products.
The vote was rejected. If it had been approved, the amendment would have forced the government to set out a strategy within three months on how it would negotiate with the European Union institutions to get the tax removed, and to report on progress against this strategy by April 2016.
As the EU's VAT laws have to be passed "unanimously" by Member States, the government has to get agreement across Europe to amend them before it can make sanitary products exempt.
So while the government "sympathise[d] with the aim of the new clause" it said it needed support from all the 28 EU countries and a proposal from the European Commission (EC) before any change could be made.
While the commitment to a road map was rejected, Treasury Minister David Gauke said the debate had revealed "considerable cross-party support" to abolish the so-called "tampon tax" and he would
"undertake to raise the issue with the European Commission and with other member states".
He said it won't be an easy task and committed to updating MPs with developments in negotiations with the Commission and EU states as and when they occur.
While that doesn't commit the government to as much as the amendment would have done, it does mean the desire to remove the tax hasn't been completely dismissed.