Kate Osamor (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward. This is the first time I have responded from the Front Bench and I am very grateful for the opportunity to do so.
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I, too, pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff) for securing the debate and for her eloquent and insightful comments. I also thank everyone from all parts of the House—the right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller), the hon. Members for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant), for South Down (Ms Ritchie) and for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley), my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Dr Huq) and the hon. Member for Falkirk (John Mc Nally) —who have all contributed to the debate. This is an important, principled debate, and it should not be a party political issue. I congratulate The Times journalists on reporting on this issue and bringing it to the forefront of public and mainstream media attention. Their calculation that gendered products marketed at women are 37% more expensive than their male counterparts reflects a wider reality of how women are expected to engage with the high street.
Women are expected to spend more on their personal hygiene, appearance and presentation than men, which is often reflected in advertising and the everyday pressures that we put on women from a young age to look and dress in a certain way. The overcharging of women for products on the high street is symptomatic of the way in which, more broadly, our economy makes women pay. Women are hit the hardest by austerity, and tampons are taxed as luxury goods.
Our domestic violence rescue services have suffered enormously over the past five years. Ironically, funds were only injected in the spending review through the tampon tax. Like grievances against the tampon tax, this debate is grounded in a principled belief that people should not pay more for products that, beyond the packaging, are identical. High street retailers should not exploit female-marked products in that way. To borrow the title of an article in The Guardian on this issue, women are overcharged every day. Imagine if that happened to men.
I applaud the work of campaigns such as “Let Toys Be Toys” that fight against unnecessarily gendered products. Gendered products on the high street are not only harmful to women in terms of pricing but often impose unnecessary gender stereotypes on to products. The Government must ensure that there is independent analysis to identify the extent of unfair gender pricing and marketing practices in the UK. The full impact of gender differentials in pricing on women must be qualified. I call upon the Government also to look at the United States and the action taken in New York and California to see what more can be done to eliminate unfair practices. Legislation has been passed in those two states to outlaw gendered pricing. An encouraging statement was released by Boots today saying that, following a Change.org petition, it has conducted a review and will be taking immediate action to amend the pricing of certain products.
I finish by expressing support for those who have campaigned on this issue, and I would welcome a meeting on this issue with the Minister and leading retailers in Parliament.