There has been no specific assessment of the impact of VAT on expenditure by gender. However, Treasury officials are looking at how the analysis of Budget measures can be deepened—including by gender.
Does the Minister agree that, for 15 million British women, sanitary products are as an essential part of the family budget as food or clothing? Is the hon. Lady aware that Britain has one of the highest rates in Europe of valued added tax on sanitary protection? Will she therefore respond positively to the 171 Members, many of whom are her hon. Friends, who signed early-day motion 683, and asked the Government to reduce VAT on sanitary protection to the European Union minimum of 5 per cent?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for making that point, and I am well aware of the anxiety that exists not only in the House, but in women's groups; it has been well represented in women's magazines. Value added tax is levied on a wide range of other essential health and hygiene products that affect men or women, or both, and they have to pay VAT. The history of VAT on those products dates back to 1977, and there has been a debate about the matter. At the moment, there is no proposal to reduce VAT on sanitary products.