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Period Poverty

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons on 14th March 2019.

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Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow Conservative, Taunton Deane

What steps she is taking to tackle period poverty.

Photo of Sheryll Murray Sheryll Murray Conservative, South East Cornwall

What steps she is taking to tackle period poverty.

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt The Secretary of State for International Development, Minister for Women and Equalities

I am convening a new taskforce of experts from all sectors to ensure that we end period poverty in the UK. The taskforce will build on good work already being done and recent announcements of funding for sanitary protection in schools and hospitals.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow Conservative, Taunton Deane

I applaud the Secretary of State for the great work that we are doing in this area in the UK, but we must remember that it is also really important to tackle period poverty abroad, where sometimes women have even more serious problems than we have here.

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt The Secretary of State for International Development, Minister for Women and Equalities

I absolutely agree. That is why we have also launched a new campaign to step up international action to end period poverty globally by 2030, in line with the global goals. This will be kick-started by £2 million of funding for small and medium-sized charities working in the Department for International Development’s priority countries. We are building on our existing international work, because obviously this is embedded in all our education work.

Photo of Sheryll Murray Sheryll Murray Conservative, South East Cornwall

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Like me, does she look forward with ever-increasing excitement to the day when we finally leave the EU and can set our own VAT rates on all products, including tampons, and end this injustice forever?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt The Secretary of State for International Development, Minister for Women and Equalities

I absolutely agree. The Government strongly believe that VAT should not apply to these products. That is why we took the initiative in 2016 to introduce legislation to enable a zero rate to take effect as soon as possible. In the meantime, we currently apply the lowest rate that we can—5%—to these products.

Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Opposition Whip (Commons)

I welcome the announcement this week, but has the Minister considered the provision of sanitary products in the workplace, perhaps starting with her Ministry or here in Parliament?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt The Secretary of State for International Development, Minister for Women and Equalities

Yes, we have. I am sure that all Members across the House will welcome the recent announcements on schools, hospitals and colleges, but we want to look at the issue in the round. That is the job of the taskforce, and it will be about Departments, the private sector and the third sector coming together to create ways to sort this for any woman or girl who may find herself in that situation. On other issues such as primary schools, workplace settings and so forth, the taskforce is looking at all those, but I am also interested in ideas that hon. Members have, because I know that there are many great schemes out there in their constituencies.

Photo of Dawn Butler Dawn Butler Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities

I thank Amika George, the Red Box Project, the British Medical Association, the Communication Workers Union, Girlguiding UK, Plan International, Bloody Good Period, Beauty Banks, On The Ball, Hey Girls, Bloody Big Brunch, my hon. Friends the Members for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff) and for Midlothian (Danielle Rowley), and Monica Lennon, the Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament, who helped with the policy on period poverty. I thank the Secretary of State and the Chancellor for the announcement yesterday. I am really pleased to hear that there will be a taskforce, and I wonder whether the Secretary of State would like to work with me and Monica Lennon so that we can make sure that refugee and homeless shelters all have free menstruation products.

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt The Secretary of State for International Development, Minister for Women and Equalities

Absolutely. This is an issue that can unite the whole House, and we need such issues, especially at times like this. When I launched this, I also paid tribute to many organisations, including those that the hon. Lady mentions, for the fantastic work that they are doing. We do not want to reinvent the wheel. There is great, sustainable work out there, and we want to take those ideas, help them scale up and ensure that we can end this issue for good.

Several hon. Members:

rose—