MP breaks House of Commons taboo by discussing her period

Danielle Rowley highlights period poverty during debate on cost of sanitary products

An MP has been praised for breaking a taboo by talking about being on her period during a debate over the cost of sanitary products, which many women cannot afford.

Scottish Labour’s Danielle Rowley, who represents Midlothian, apologised for being late to a House of Commons women and equalities debate, saying she was on her period and it had cost her £25 so far this week.

She called for action on the cost of sanitary products. “We know the average cost of a period in the UK over a year is £500. Many women can’t afford this. What is the minister doing to address period poverty?” she asked.

Several MPs congratulated Rowley after she made parliamentary history.

My cramps are pretty epic to be fair. #endperiodpoverty

— Danielle Rowley MP (@DaniRowley) June 28, 2018

The UK government is under pressure to follow the lead of the Scottish parliament and offer free sanitary products to women on low incomes. One in 10 girls in the UK cannot afford them, according to a study by Plan International UK.

A survey into the effects of period poverty in Scotland released this year showed the extreme lengths some women go to, including resorting to using old clothes or newspapers, when they cannot afford sanitary protection.

The minister for women, Victoria Atkins, said the government had invested £1.5m in the Brook charity project Let’s Talk Periods.

“The government is committed to removing the VAT rate on sanitary products when we leave the EU, which will help with the cost,” she said.

The shadow women and equalities minister, Carolyn Harris, said: “Why is the UK government failing to provide support to tackle this growing problem, and leaving it to charities and individual groups like Beauty Bank[s], a cosmetics equivalent of food banks, to fill the gap?”

Atkins said the UK was “watching with interest” the Scottish government’s commitment to deliver access to free sanitary products in schools and other educational institutions.

In later exchanges, Labour’s Liz McInnes, the MP for Heywood and Middleton, called for menopause policies to become statutory for employers in the same way maternity ones are.

Atkins said: “With more women over the age of 50 remaining in work, more women will experience the symptoms of menopause while in work, and so it’s in employers’ interests to ensure that they have policies that adapt.”


Sarah Marsh

The GuardianTramp

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