McCartney responds over SU “tampon tax” allegations

MP Karl McCartney (left) and SU President Hayley Jayne Wilkinson (right)

MP Karl McCartney (left) and SU President Hayley Jayne Wilkinson (right) have clashed over a parliamentary vote on the so-called ‘tampon tax’

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney has responded to criticism made by Lincoln Students’ Union last week over a parliamentary vote on the ‘tampon tax’.

On Wednesday, October 28, thousands of students received “an important message” from SU President, Hayley Jayne Wilkinson, on a “deplorable” move by the Conservative MP to “vote against a proposal to abolish the 5% levy placed on women’s sanitary products”.

Hayley Jayne Wilkinson

The letter by SU President, Hayley Jayne Wilkinson, was covered heavily in local media (Photo: University of Lincoln Students’ Union)

“The University of Lincoln Students’ Union has a policy, approved by the Student Council, to lobby against this tax which we view as extremely unfair and gender-specific,” the email read.

“Certainly, sanitary products are an essential item; people should not be taxed for having periods. Menstruation is NOT a choice; sanitary products are necessary for comfort and hygiene.

“We are extremely disappointed that our locally elected MP has voted against the removal of this tax. Whilst we appreciate the power to remove this tax is with the EU, the fact that our MP has voted against the motion is symbolic and an action that we totally deplore.”

The email, duplicated on the SU website, also mentions that the union sent a letter to Karl McCartney on the topic. However, when The Linc asked to see a copy, we were declined, along with a request for interview.

The ‘tampon tax’ itself is actually a rate of value added tax, known more commonly as VAT, which applies to thousands of items. While ‘essential’ items are exempt, others are liable to the full 20% rate, while tampons fall under a reduced rate of 5%.

Furthermore, any of the rules surrounding VAT are mediated by the European Union, rather than the UK Government.

Karl’s immediate response came when our colleagues at LSJ News received an “editing assist” from him on Twitter:

Then, yesterday afternoon, an official statement on the issue appeared on the MP’s website.

“It is regrettable that at various times some of our local media in Lincolnshire seem to be willing to follow a pre-ordained political agenda and narrative from various third parties,” he claimed.

“I find it deplorable that some local media and organisations, with little regard for the plain truth, are willing and complicit in such misrepresentations and look forward to the public and reported apologies from all those who they happily reported castigated me and my colleagues  – completely erroneously – last week.

“I would be pleasantly surprised to see such coverage given equal prominence,” he concluded.

Attached to the statement was a copy of the reply Karl has written to the SU President. In it, he explains why he voted the way he did, criticises the “politically-motivated narrative” of the SU and concludes by suggesting they should back the campaign to leave the European Union.

“I support calls for the United Kingdom to be able to apply a zero rate of VAT to female sanitary products,” he clarifies. “If passed, the Amendment [which McCartney opposed] would have only forced the Government to undertake a three month negotiation exercise with no likelihood of a positive outcome.”

Karl went on to summarise: “In essence, the vote in the House of Commons on this issue was divided between those who wanted to tie the Government to a three month negotiation exercise and those who wanted to give flexibility to negotiate as part of the EU renegotiation strategy.

“Both sides supported the need to reduce the VAT rate on sanitary products to zero.”

Karl McCartney speaks into various microphones and cameras

Karl McCartney speaks briefly to the media after his 2015 election win (Photo: Asmund Lovdal)

He then proceeds to talk about Hayley Jayne’s letter, which he describes as “wholly untrue and completely unfounded”.

“I understand you are new to your role,” the MP writes, “although you were involved in various ill-fated campaigns with the SU in the past, and despite this when we recently met I repeated that I want to help you, the University and students in any way I can.

“But you do no justice to yourself, nor the 13,000 University of Lincoln students you dubiously claim to represent, by sending baseless letters via the press that make unsubstantiated claims to, and about, your local Member of Parliament.”

At two A4 pages long, we can’t include the full text of the letter, although it is available here.

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