Rape clause – Government finally allows the public to have their say

Campaigning MP, Alison Thewliss, has welcomed a climb down from the UK Government which has now finally relented and put its proposed two child policy and rape clause out to public consultation.

The SNP MP has been putting pressure on the Government for the last fifteen months to scrap the policy. Ms Thewliss has also consistently criticised the Government’s lack of consultation.

Ms Thewliss is now calling upon stakeholders, constituents and interested individuals to “pile in” with responses to the consultation and send a clear message to the Government that it must drop the entire policy.

Glasgow Central MP Alison Thewliss commented:

“It’s a small but significant step forward that, fifteen months after exposing this cruel policy, the Government has finally relented to pressure and gone out to public consultation.

“After dozens of exchanges with Ministers on this issue, it has been increasingly clear that this policy was dreamt up in Whitehall and not seriously thought through.

“One of the key points about getting this put out to public consultation means the Government must listen to rape crisis campaigners, women’s groups, religious organisations, and welfare charities who are crystal clear that these policies are unworkable, immoral and medieval.

“I urge all interested parties and individuals to pile in, respond to the consultation and leave this Tory Government in no doubt that their cruel rape clause and pernicious two child policy must be scrapped.”

Parliament to debate “medieval” rape clause policy

SNP MP, Alison Thewliss, will today (Wednesday 12th October) force the UK Government to turn up to Parliament and account for its medieval rape clause and pernicious two child policy, which would limit tax credit payments to the first two children in a family.

The campaigning MP has applied for a parliamentary debate to force UK Ministers to come before MPs and account for the plans, which have been condemned by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Speaking in advance of today’s Westminster debate, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“Whilst the campaign to scrap the rape clause has been gathering momentum, endless unanswered questions about this medieval policy have been piling up in Whitehall.

Since spotting this proposal buried in the 2015 budget, it has been my firm belief that, as well as being fundamentally immoral, this is also completely unworkable.

“I am pleased that today will afford me the opportunity to forensically question Ministers in Parliament and, crucially, on the public record.

“Earlier in the year, I had an utterly woeful private meeting with the Welfare Minister, Lord Freud, who failed to answer very basic questions and, worse still, he suggested that physically and sexually abused women should just ‘flee’ from such situations. This demonstrated a blatant ignorance of the dehumanising nature of domestic and sexual abuse.

“The 2015 budget document suggested that the DWP would develop “protections” for women with more than two children, when that third child was conceived as a result of rape. Despite pressing Lord Freud on this, it was clear the Government don’t really know in practice how such a policy would work.

“For example, would a woman have to prove that she had conceived a child as a result of rape? If so, who would arbitrate on that? Would that information be retained on her DWP files? If so, would all and any DWP staff be able to access that information?

“It was suggested by the Government during the meeting that a letter be issued to survivors of rape which they could keep to prove they were exempt from the two child policy and could be presented as and when required. Does the UK Government genuinely think this is appropriate?

“One question this Government can’t answer is how limiting tax credits to two children per family fits in with its family test for policy. Put simply, this policy is anti-family and will stigmatise children.

“I’ve already had conversations with faith leaders who believe that this policy would directly discriminate families who, for religious reasons, might have larger families.

“There are just far too many unanswered questions and concerns around this policy; the Government wrote to me and confirmed that they still hadn’t figured out the detail of how their plans could be implemented.

“Theresa May’s new Government hasn’t been shy about making policy u-turns and ditching some of David Cameron and George Osborne’s prized policies. The rape clause and two child policy should be next to be thrown onto this new Government’s bonfire and I’m giving Ministers that very opportunity today, when they can come to the chamber and scrap these wicked plans.”

Government’s rape clause defence “more heat than light”

Campaigning MP, Alison Thewliss, has lambasted the UK Government’s failure to reassure vulnerable women and families about their proposed rape clause and two child policy.

Brandishing a Minister’s performance as “more heat than light”, Ms Thewliss vowed to plough on with her campaign to scrap the rape clause.

Despite pressing a number of serious questions to DWP Minister, Caroline Noakes, Ms Thewliss received few answers and instead got a diatribe about the need for austerity.

Commenting after the debate, the Glasgow Central MP said:

“In preparing for today’s debate, I specifically laid out key questions for the Government to answer which, unfortunately, they chose to ignore. Today we got more heat than light from the Government.

“Despite spending a significant proportion of my speech laying out concerns about the principle and operation of the two child policy and the rape clause, the Minister made no attempt whatsoever to address these issues.

“The Minister failed to take on board well founded and legitimate concerns about the Government’s third party reporting mechanism, and couldn’t give any guarantees how this would work. That is shocking when you consider the policy was announced over 400 days ago.

“The other red herring today was this same tired line that the Government will be consulting with stakeholders, but this has been incredibly limited in scope so far. Charities such as Stepchange Debt Charity, Child Poverty Action Group and Scottish Women’s Aid have all criticised the policy.

“In light of the fact that the Government is clearly unwilling to meaningfully engage – and do so publicly – on this deeply worrying policy, I will now be pushing ahead to organise a major event at Westminster which will bring together women’s welfare groups, rape crisis charities, faith communities and welfare charities. I will, of course, be inviting the Minister to address the event and listen to the very genuine concerns which still exist and could have been resolved today”.