I recently received several emails from constituents regarding the "Tampon Tax" fund, after news that the Government decided to award the anti-abortion charity 'Life' £250,000 from the VAT levied on sanitary products.
During the debate on the Tampon Tax last year, we were assured by the Government that any funds gathered by taxes on sanitary products would be exclusively donated to charities that work to improve the lives of vulnerable women and girls. In a recent adjournment debate on the affordability of sanitary products which I attended, Government minister Jane Ellison reiterated that the funding gathered via the Tampon Tax Fund would be used to improve health, well-being and education initiatives, support services for vulnerable women and initiatives that help tackle violence against women and girls.
I understand that the grant in question has been awarded to Life to develop “housing, practical help, non-directive counselling and life skills training for pregnant and homeless women”. In this instance, I am particularly concerned about the ability of an anti-choice organisation to provide 'non-directive' counselling to vulnerable women—especially if these women are relying on the charity for shelter. Life has been criticised in the past for likening abortion following rape to a death penalty for the foetus. Undercover researchers have also reported that the charity has told women that abortion leads to increased risk of breast cancer, or advised women that they are a good age to have a child. I do not believe these are examples of objective, non-directive counselling.
I therefore disagree with the Government's decision to use the Tampon Tax fund, supposedly ring-fenced for projects designed to support vulnerable women, to fund an anti-abortion charity. If we must have a tampon tax at all, then the money generated should not go to organisations which seek to further limit women’s choices over their own bodies.
In light of this decision I have written to Rob Wilson MP, Minister for Civil Society, asking for an urgent review of this grant. I will be updating this blog post as soon as I receive a response.
I have now received a response from Rob Wilson in response to my request that the Government urgently review the grant to Life. I am disappointed by his response and the Government's decision not to review the grant.
A copy of the letter I received is below: