The UK Government has been urged to abandon its “pernicious” two child policy and rape clause, following the publication of a United Nations Human Rights report.

The report, by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), published today, made a number of recommendations including that the two-child tax credit limit be repealed.

The two child limit, and the non-consensual sex exemption – commonly known as the rape clause – has been the subject of significant opposition since it was challenged in the 2015 Budget by Alison Thewliss MP.


Work and Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd MP. Photo: Chris McAndrew [CC BY 3.0]

A section from the report reads: “The Committee recalls its previous concluding observations and remains concerned that the payment of Universal Credit, which consolidates six separate income-related benefits, into a single bank account under the Universal Credit system risks depriving women in abusive relationships access to necessary funds and trapping them in situations of poverty and violence.

“It also expresses deep concern at the introduction of a two-child tax credit limit except in certain circumstances such as rape, which has a perverse and disproportionate impact on women.

“The Committee also expresses its concern that the increase in the state pension age for women from 60 to 66, following several legislative changes, has affected the pension entitlements of women born in the 1950s, and is contributing to poverty, homelessness and financial hardships among the affected women.”

The Committee calls on the UK Government to:

(a) Ensure that women in abusive situations are able to independently access payments under the Universal Credit system;

(b) Repeal the two-child tax credit limit;

(c) Take effective measures to ensure that the increase in the State pension age from 60 to 66 does not have a discriminatory impact on women born in the 1950s.


SNP launch campaign against tax credits ‘rape clause’. Photo Credit: SNP/Alison Thewliss MP.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP (SNP) said: “This most recent condemnation is a damning confirmation of what is a truly cruel and pernicious policy by this heartless UK Tory Government.

“Having ceased rollout of the policy to third and subsequent children born before April 2017, the DWP Secretary of State Amber Rudd must now recognise that the two child policy is unfair for everyone who is affected by it.

“No one can plan for the whole course of their family life, and social security should be a safety net for all of us when we need it.

“Only today, I met with a host of organisations, representing a number of sections of society – including women’s and religious groups – and all were unequivocal in their opposition to the two child policy.

“It is tantamount to social engineering, and it is pushing increasing numbers of families into poverty.

“I will be writing to the UK Government to ask for immediate action on CEDAW’s findings. Amber Rudd must do the right thing and end the two child limit for good.”

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Universal credit should not be causing poverty and hardship, but that’s exactly what the two-child limit is doing.


“It’s harsh, punitive and unfair. The government has already shown it understands the damage being caused by the two-child limit by axing plans to backdate it.

“Now ministers should do the right thing and ditch this morally wrong cap.”