Tax on charity condoms attacked

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The Independent Online
LABOUR MPs last night protested at a move by the Government to apply VAT to contraceptives issued by charities.

The MPs, led by Brian Sedgemore, tabled a Commons motion condemning the decision of the Customs and Excise to remove condoms from their current zero-rated status when supplied by charities such as the Brook Advisory Centres.

Mr Sedgemore, MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, said: "VAT on condoms purchases by charities - next it will be VAT on prayers spoken in church. Not that the observance of prayers matters.

"The absence of condoms is an altogether different and more disturbing matter. The Government should be ashamed. Fewer condoms, more teenage pregnancies, more government expenditure - it doesn't make sense."

The MPs warned that it could lead to an increase in teenage pregnancies and make it impossible for the Government to achieve its targets for the nation's health. The Brook centres said they would be forced to make an equivalent reduction in supplies of condoms of 20 per cent if VAT was imposed.

Mr Sedgemore said the charities were issuing condoms to young people to protect them from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Research shows many people only used services if they could obtain them free.

The Treasury minister, Dawn Primarolo, said it had always been the view of Customs and Excise that condoms did not come within the law providing VAT relief for medicinal products supplied to charities.

She told Mr Sedgemore in a letter: "Medicine products are clearly defined in VAT law which incorporates definitions used in the Medicines Act. This definition specifically excludes instruments, apparatus and appliances. Customs take the view that condoms are appliances and therefore outside the scope of the relief."