MP Thewliss rails against Tory austerity

Alison Thewliss MP at Buchanan Street Steps

SNP MP Alison Thewliss today took the UK Government to task during a parliamentary debate on Government’s Autumn Statement and its impact on women.

Leading the debate on behalf of the SNP in the Commons, the Glasgow Central MP railed against the recent Autumn Statement which she said was a real “missed opportunity” for women.

Commenting after speaking in Parliament, Alison Thewliss said:

“Today’s debate was an opportunity for us to shine a very bright light on the fact that this Government’s austerity agenda disproportionately impacts women. We know that tax and benefit changes since 2010 will have hit women’s incomes twice as hard as men by 2020. Women will be on average over £1,000 worse off by 2020; for men, that figure will be £555.

“The Autumn Statement was a missed opportunity for our new female Prime Minister to stand up for women. Instead, it appears the Prime Minister has pulled the ladder up behind her.

“As part of the continued economic offensive against women, last month’s Autumn Statement was a missed opportunity to scrap the rape clause and two child policy. It was a missed opportunity to deliver justice for women affected by state pension inequality, who are being forced to work longer for their pension. It was a missed opportunity to give everyone access to a real living wage.

“I also pressed the Minister on the on-going tampon tax. Whilst it’s welcome that the Government is diverting VAT raised from the tampon tax into women’s good causes, the reality remains that I and millions of other women are still being taxed every month for having periods. The Government need to press ahead without haste and secure agreement from Europe to abolish the tampon tax.

“My colleague Angela Crawley MP has been doing a sterling job in campaigning against the 4% fee levied on Child Maintenance Service payments for women and children trying to rebuild their lives after domestic abuse. The Prime Minister must respond to legitimate calls for the Government to axe this cruel tax on child support payments.”

SNP hails tampon tax victory

Alison Thewliss MP at Buchanan Street Steps

SNP MP Alison Thewliss has warmly welcomed news tonight that a deal has been reached which will finally see the 5% VAT rate on women’s sanitary products – otherwise known as the tampon tax – scrapped.

The SNP was the only party in the 2015 election to commit in its manifesto to scrapping the deeply unjust tax on periods.

SNP MP Alison Thewliss introduced an amendment in July 2015 at the Finance Bill Committee stage to try and end the tax but was rebuffed by Tory Ministers who insisted the tax could only be abolished with the permission of the European Commission.Tampon tax in the manifesto

News is emerging from Brussels tonight that a deal has finally been secured which will end the 5% tax which generates around £15 million in tax for HM Treasury.

Alison Thewliss MP welcomed tonight’s news, saying:

“This is a victory for the tens of thousands of women in the UK who’ve signed petitions, lobbied their MPs and kept up the pressure over many years to scrap this totally unjust tax on an absolutely essential product.

“I am proud that the SNP was the only party at last year’s election which had the ambition to commit to this in its manifesto. It was a privilege to be able to kick start the debate during the Finance Bill deliberations last summer and I am glad that this has culminated in action which will finally put an end to the tampon tax”.

SNP in cross party effort to scrap tampon tax

Alison Thewliss MP at Buchanan Street Steps

Glasgow SNP MP, Alison Thewliss, has joined forces with MPs from three other parties to force a vote in the House of Commons which could see the abolition of VAT on ladies’ sanitary products – otherwise known as the tampon tax.

Ms Thewliss has campaigned for the abolition of the tampon tax since being elected to Parliament in May 2015. She initially tabled amendments during committee consideration of last year’s Finance Bill and the SNP was the only major party in the 2015 election to have a specific manifesto commitment to abolish the tampon tax.

Next week MPs from the SNP, Labour, Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats will force a vote in the House of Commons which could end the “deeply unjust tax on periods”.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“Now is the time end, once and for all, the deeply unjust tax on periods.

“It is estimated that the UK Treasury generates £15 million a year in VAT from the sale of essential ladies sanitary products. Tampons are not a luxury item – they are a basic requirement for women and should not be subject to tax.

“Up until now the UK Government has suggested that a change in the law to abolish the tax wouldn’t be possible due to EU rules and I’ve been willing, to some extent, to allow them the space to negotiate this with the European Commission, however, there has been speculation that a decision on this will be forthcoming in the very near future, therefore we’re going to press this to vote next week, in the hope we can force substantial action on an issue that has run on far too long.”

Questions on tampon tax fund transparency

HM Gov screen grabAlison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, has criticised the UK Government for not transparently advertising tampon tax funding for women’s welfare groups.

Current legislation means that VAT, at 5%, is added to essential women’s sanitary products. The SNP was the only party in 2015 general election campaign to pledge in its manifesto to abolish VAT on women’s sanitary products, also known as the ‘tampon tax’.

Alison Thewliss first moved amendments to the UK Government’s budget in September, which sought to abolish the tax on ladies’ sanitary products. However, the Government asked for time to negotiate with the European Commission on EU VAT rules.

In November 2015, as part of the Autumn Statement, Chancellor George Osborne announced the establishment of a £15 million fund which would be open to bids for women’s welfare groups. The £15 million fund would return to women’s welfare groups the revenue generated from the tampon tax.

On 26th November, the day after the Autumn Statement, Thewliss wrote to the Chancellor and welcomed the establishment of the fund but asked how groups would be able to apply for the funding. It took the Government until 4th February 2016 to reply – some 76 days. Applications for the fund closed on 22 February 2016.

The Glasgow MP has now uncovered tracking changes on the UK Government’s website, which only informed groups how they could respond 16 days before applications closed – some 69 days after the Chancellor announced the establishment of the fund.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“The fact that it took the Chancellor almost 80 days to respond to a genuine enquiry from a Member of Parliament is shocking and shows gross disrespect to Parliament.

“None the less, when I received information from the Treasury, I passed it on to women’s welfare groups and encouraged them to apply for the funding. I was gobsmacked last week when we found out that there was such a quick closing date for applications to the fund, despite it taking 69 days for the Government to bother publishing information as to how groups could actually apply. This is simply not good enough.

“I’ve written to the Treasury demanding to know the exact chronology of events on this. Serious questions need to be asked, such as who was responsible for advertising this funding, what happened between 25 November and 2 February and whether the Government proactively advertised this fund to groups other than a small article hidden away on the website

“It is clear that a number of charities might well have lost out on this opportunity for funding, which is totally unfair. I am therefore calling upon the Government to urgently re-open the application process and properly raise awareness about the tampon tax fund.”