What’s the deal with the tampon tax?

Essential or luxury item?

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Are tampons and essential or luxury item? Unless Chanel and Dior have branched out into feminine hygiene for AW16, the answer seems pretty obvious.

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Although not, apparently, for the 305 MPs who voted against a bill put forward this week calling on the Government to remove VAT from tampons, currently at 5%.

Repairing your helicopter. Crocodile steaks. Vodka jellies. All apparently essential enough to be VAT-free. Not tampons.

When pushed to consider an item used exclusively by men and equally essential, taxed at the same rate - the responses we get are laughable. When Labour MP Dawn Primarolo emailed that question to male colleagues when lobbying Gordon Brown to reduce the VAT rate on them in 2000, they best they could manage? Beard trimmers and Jewish circumcision knives. Her campaign was successful.

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Although the government was not defeated, the vote in the House of Commons did achieve something remarkable. Eurosceptic Tory MPs (not known for their feminism) united with Labour and SNP MPs in voting for to end VAT on our monthly acquaintances.

That’s because the EU would need to approve the Government scrapping VAT on an item which was previously taxed – another reason, they thought, to rebel against Europe’s control of UK decisions. And it gave us this comical moment when one such Tory MP had to be cajoled into saying the word ‘tampon’.

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Words by ELLE Politics Editor Ellie Gellard