Victory for period poverty campaigners as Chancellor announces free sanitary products in schools
Secondary schools are to be given free sanitary products following a campaign against so-called "period poverty", Philip Hammond has announced.
The Chancellor told MPs the Government would be funding the move in a bid to address the "rising concerns" of headteachers.
The move has been hailed as a major victory for campaigners, who claimed the education of girls from disadvantaged backgrounds was being affected by the problem.
Delivering his Spring Statement in the Commons, Mr Hammond said: "In response to rising concern by headteachers that some girls are missing school attendance due to inability to afford sanitary products, I have decided to fund the provision of free sanitary products in secondary schools and colleges in England from the next school year.
“I congratulate those Honourable Members who have campaigned on this issue."
Layla Moran, the Lib Dems' education spokesperson, said: "Girls are missing out on their education while on their period, or using unsuitable substitutes because they cannot afford to buy basic sanitary protection. It is good to see the Government have finally agreed that this is unacceptable.
"However, this is not a silver bullet and we must continue to demand better for girls and women."
Labour MP Dawn Butler, the shadow minister for women and equalities, said the announcement was a "victory" for campaigners and added: "It's a disgrace that period poverty exists in the sixth richest country in the world."
But the Red Box Project, which works to give free sanitary products for young women in schools, said the government-funded scheme should be extended to primary schools.
A spokesperson said: “Age should not be yet another prerequisite to accessing a full education.
“All children regardless of gender or age should be free to participate in their school life and we know, from the support we are providing on the ground that the need for this provision is huge in all three educational settings."
Labour MP Danielle Rowley told PoliticsHome: "Until the root causes of poverty are properly addressed by the current Tory Government, period poverty will remain an issue for girls and women across the UK.”
Mr Hammond also used his Spring Statement to confirm a £100 million funding boost for police to tackle the "menace" of knife crime, and first steps towards cracking down on late payments to small businesses.
A further £260 million was also added to the pot for hiking growth in the borderlands of England and Scotland, and a £3 billion affordable homes guarantee scheme to support the delivery of 30,000 affordable homes.
Paper landing cards at UK entry points will be scrapped from June, the Chancellor said, and visitors from the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Singapore and South Korea will be able to use e-gates at airports and Eurostar terminals.
Mr Hammond also told the House that national debt was falling “sustainably” for the “first time in a generation” and urged members to back an “orderly” exit from the European Union in order to bring an end to austerity measures.
He said: “The progress we have made will be at risk if we cannot secure a smooth and orderly exit from the EU and a transition to a new partnership that protects the complex trading relationships businesses have built up over 45 years and on which so many British jobs depend.
“Leaving with “No Deal” would mean significant disruption in the short- and medium-term and a smaller, less prosperous economy in the long-term, than if we leave with a deal.
“Higher unemployment; lower wages; higher prices in the shops. That is not what the British people voted for in June 2016.”