HC Deb 15 July 1982 vol 27 cc1161-2
10. Miss Joan Lestor

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what factors are taken into account when determining which items are zero rated for the purposes of value added tax.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

VAT is a broadly based tax which, of its nature, covers a wide range of goods and services in the domestic economy. Zero rating is applied as an exception to a number of essential items in family budgets, such as most food, heating and light, public transport and young children's clothing.

Miss Lestor

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one such exempted category has always been that of medical supplies, which would include articles of sanitary protection for women? Is he aware that following last week's radio phone-in on the subject and the petition now circulating thousands of women will be petitioning him about this? Will he consider removing the tax from those essential items?

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

I am, of course, aware of the arguments advanced in support of that proposition. I must point out, however, that items of sanitary protection are one of a large list of articles involving what is described as personal hygiene—including toilet paper, soap, toothbrushes, razors and the like. I can see no logical reason to single out one item in the list for special treatment.

Mr. Cormack

On another sanitary point, why does a person who builds a new lavatory receive better VAT treatment than the person who repairs an old one?

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

That has pulled the plug on my hon. Friend.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

The whole construction industry is an area in which the boundary between zero rating and standard rating is highly complex. The logical answer, which I do not envisage the Government pursuing at present, would be to apply standard rating to all forms of construction work.

Mr. Pavitt

As items of sanitary protection are the only items on the list given by the Minister which, for biological reasons, are used exclusively by females, does he agree that their inclusion is discriminatory? Is it not time that the Government backed up their views on sexual equality by removing that item from tax?

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

I am glad to say that, in my experience, most women have a tendency to use soap.

Miss Joan Lestor

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Due to the totally unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, and the levity with which he treated the question, I give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Mr. Hoyle

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker—

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is only consuming Question Time. Perhaps it could wait until afterwards.

Mr. Hoyle

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is not a waste of time. That was a sexist remark and the Minister should apologise.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman knows that that is not a point of order and it was a waste of our time.