SNP MP Alison Thewliss has criticised the UK government for “sneaking out” its long-awaited response to the consultation on its “pernicious” two child policy and rape clause – part of plans to cut tax credits to low income families.
The MP for Glasgow Central, who has led the campaign to reform the policy, welcomed the UK government’s concessions but warned they do not go far enough and vowed to continue her campaign.
The consultation on the controversial policy closed in November 2016 but the UK government’s response was snuck out on Friday afternoon while media attention was focused on the US president’s inauguration.
Commenting Alison Thewliss MP said: “It speaks volumes that the UK government are desperate for media coverage of this callous policy to be buried.
“While I am pleased that Ministers have finally made a number of concessions, which will go some way to reducing some of the cruellest aspects associated with this pernicious proposal, it has had to be dragged out of them after much campaigning from a number of organisations.
“I particularly welcome the u-turn on multiple births, and that there will be no time limit on the reporting of rape. What is also encouraging is the decision to remove frontline DWP and HMRC staff from gatekeeping on this incredibly sensitive process.
“However, there are still fundamental problems with this pernicious two-child policy, not least concerning those of faith and ethnic minority backgrounds.
“The UK government’s own response clearly identifies that the most controversial aspect of the policy was the rape clause.
“Ministers even go on to concede that most respondents felt it was unacceptable for the UK government to ask women to re-live the ordeal of a rape just in order to make a claim for benefit.
“Despite receiving that loud and overwhelming message, this appalling and crass Tory government refuse to listen.
“The fact remains that this policy, however diluted, is still anti-women, anti-family and fundamentally wicked.
“There are still a number of very serious unanswered questions about the practicalities of a policy due to be implemented in just a few months’ time.
“I’ll be using this crucial time to fight these proposals all the way, particularly when they come to the House as a statutory instrument.”
Dr Marsha Scott, Chief Executive of Scottish Womens Aid, said: “We have said all along that there is no way that the so-called rape clause can be made somehow “acceptable” – it is a cruel and demeaning policy that revictimises women and reveals the utter callousness of so-called welfare reform.
“Hiding the results of the consultation behind the media attention on the US presidential ceremony just adds insult to injury. Did the government really think women across the U.K. wouldn’t notice?
“Scottish Women’s Aid will continue to oppose this shameful policy in every way possible.”
Sarah Champion MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, said: “The government are yet again demonstrating their profound lack of understanding of the nature of sexual abuse and coercive relationships and are designing policy in a way that is actively harmful to women.
“The fact that the Government have chosen Donald Trump’s inauguration to quietly sneak out a publication of controversial new rules that demand women ‘prove’ their rape to a third party before receiving child benefit is underhanded and extremely disappointing.
“Labour reiterates our long-standing calls for the government to conduct a full gender impact assessment of their policies without further delay. The government must take this harmful policy back to the drawing board before any women are forced to identify a child as a ‘product’ of rape.”
A Government spokeswoman said: “Our welfare reforms are a key part of controlling public spending as we create an economy that works for everyone.
“This reform ensures people on benefits have to make the same choices as those supporting themselves solely through work. But we have always been clear this reform will be delivered in the most effective, compassionate way and we have consulted to ensure the right exceptions and safeguards are in place.”
This is an official press release from the Scottish National Party (SNP). Labour Party and UK Government comments added by Welfare Weekly.