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”.

Tories must live up to their rhetoric and scrap regressive policies against women

Medieval two child policy has still not been scrapped.

The SNP has called on Theresa May to “live up to her rhetoric” of being on the side of ordinary people by scrapping her party’s regressive policies against women.

A report by Engender found that since 2010, £26 billion worth of cuts have been made to benefits, tax credits, pay and pensions and 85% of this has fallen on women’s incomes.

This week, the new Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green confirmed that as part of the delayed roll-out of Universal Credit, the two child policy will continue to operate – meaning a further hit to women’s incomes.

During Women and Equalities Questions in the House of Commons today, SNP MP Alison Thewliss asked what was being done to about women being disproportionately impacted by Tory welfare refoms – Work and Pensions minister Caroline Nokes failed to suggest any way of tackling the imbalance.

Alison Thewliss MP said:

“According to Engender, since 2010 there have been £26 billion of cuts made to benefits, tax credits, pay and pensions with 85% of this coming directly from women’s incomes.

“The Tories are determined to plough on with the roll-out of Universal Credit despite the new Work and Pensions Secretary revealing the roll-out has been delayed for another year and despite the new benefit already being plagued with delays and billions of extra costs.

“The continued roll-out of the Tories’ failed new benefit will also mean the frankly medieval two child policy has still not been scrapped even though it almost certainly breaches the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.

“It is not enough to simply have a female Prime Minister as there is still so much work to be done when it comes to gender equality – Theresa May must live up to her rhetoric.”

“Shameless” Prime Minister condemned by SNP MP

Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, today branded the Prime Minister shameless for shrugging off repeated international condemnation for his welfare policies.

Ms Thewliss was questioning Prime Minister David Cameron in the House of Commons today (Wednesday 6th July) about recent United Nations condemnation for UK welfare cuts.

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) has published a damning new report on the UK’s implementation of economic, social and cultural rights. The Glasgow MP asked the Prime Minister how much more international condemnation was needed before he scrapped his regressive welfare policies, including plans to limit tax credits to two children and a rape clause mechanism.

Ms Thewliss commented:

“Yet again the Prime Minister has behaved in the most utterly shameless way possible by brushing off my calls to respect UN concerns about economic, social and cultural rights, which are clearly impeded by these regressive welfare policies.

“I’m appalled that the Prime Minister can casually dismiss major concerns from highly respected institutions such as the United Nations.

“The rape clause and two child policy, as well as many other welfare changes, take us down a deeply damaging path to social engineering and it will heap further misery on already vulnerable people.

“The Prime Minister needs to put his pride aside and scrap these cruel policies.”

Questions remain unanswered on rape clause and two child policy

SNP MP Alison Thewliss has spoken of her “utter disappointment” following her meeting today (Thursday 19th May) with Lord Freud, Minister of State for Welfare Reform, at the Department of Work & Pensions.

Following months of campaigning, Prime Minister David Cameron finally relented and organised a meeting between the SNP MP and his Welfare Reform Minister, which took place this morning.

Ms Thewliss had just forty-five minutes to question Freud and his officials on their “draconian” plans for a rape clause and two child policy which she said was “tantamount to social engineering”.

Commenting after her meeting at the DWP’s Caxton House HQ in London, Ms Thewliss said:

“Today’s meeting was one of the most frustrating and soul destroying meetings I’ve ever had to endure in my nine years of elected public office, first as a Councillor and now as an MP.

“Lord Freud showed no compassion for the vulnerable women and families who will be subjected to some of the most draconian welfare reforms in the world, reforms which are tantamount to social engineering.

“The Prime Minister himself conceded the Government had “more to do” on this policy, and promised that they would consult on this. When I pressed the Minister, it turns out that the Government have consulted just four organisations on a policy which will cause unimaginable pain and distress to victims of rape.

“This Government clearly does not appreciate that the majority of rapes happen within abusive relationships, and that pushing women to claim could place them and their children in a very dangerous position. During the course of the meeting, Lord Freud suggested that women should “just flee”, without appreciating how incredibly difficult that can be. This comes at the same time when women’s refuges are under threat by Tory cuts to housing benefit. That is simply unacceptable and confirms my worst fears that this is the most uncaring, heartless and cruel UK Government yet.

“On restricting tax credits to the first two children in a family, Lord Freud made great play of the fact that 85% of families have two or less children, therefore this policy would only impact a small minority of people. He couldn’t answer why the Government is legislating to attack such a small minority. He confirmed that he had not consulted with any religious groups, who may be disproportionately affected by the restriction.

“I was further appalled to hear that they have no intention of protecting eligibility to tax credits for families composed of children from previous relationships, which further undermines the Government’s much vaunted ‘family test’.

“I am absolutely gutted by this Tory Government’s lack of compassion, but I will continue the fight to end to this policy. It’s just a shame that the UK Government are so hell bent on pushing ahead with this that they’ll be as obstructive as possible.”

Thewliss takes rape clause fight to DWP HQ

SNP MP, Alison Thewliss, will today (Thursday 19th May) meet with Lord Freud, UK Minister for Welfare Reform, at the Department for Work & Pension’s Caxton House HQ in London.

Further stepping up her campaign against the Government’s proposed rape clause and two child policy, Ms Thewliss will use the meeting – organised by the Prime Minister – to put forward a list of unanswered questions to the Government which, she says, “demonstrate the policies to be unworkable, let alone immoral”.

Commenting in advance of her meeting with Lord Freud, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“It is now ten months since I first raised concerns about the Tories plans to limit tax credits and introduce a rape clause, and I’m determined to keep pursuing this. The Government cannot be allowed to get away with implementing policies that are tantamount to social engineering.

“I’ve met and spoken with a number of women’s welfare and rape crisis organisations over recent months and it is clear that vulnerable women and families are deeply worried about the impact these cruel and draconian policies will have on them.

“Ministers at every level of Government, including the Chancellor and Prime Minister, have assured me that they realise this policy needs looked at again. We’ve been promised a consultation but, as yet – and not for lack of asking – we’ve still got no detail as to how or when the consultation will be undertaken, who will be consulted, how long it will run for and when it will report.

“The policy doesn’t need consultation – it needs binned. The fact that the Government has thus far been unable to answer basic questions demonstrate the policies to be as unworkable as they are immoral.”

Davidson urged to be a “strong opposition” to Tories’ rape clause and two child policy

Scots Tory Leader, Ruth Davidson, has been challenged to put up a “strong opposition” to her own party’s draconian welfare reforms at Westminster.

SNP MP Alison Thewliss has written to Ruth Davidson following her party’s Holyrood election boost, saying that it’s ‘time to stand up for vulnerable women and families’ by opposing the UK Tories proposed rape clause and two child policy.

Commenting, Ms Thewliss said:

“The Scottish Conservative Party spent much of the recent election campaigning under a banner of being a “strong opposition” for Scotland.  I welcome scrutiny and constructive opposition, but Ruth Davidson needs to realise that being a strong opposition doesn’t extend just to Holyrood.

“If Ruth Davidson is serious about being an effective party leader, she can’t just be the UK Tory party’s ambassador for promoting inherently unfair policies in Scotland. Ms Davidson’s party is still absolutely hell bent on ramming through vile and draconian welfare policies, and it just underlines my view that they’re still the nasty party.

“Ruth Davidson has the opportunity to not only be a strong opposition, but to locate her moral compass, say no to penalising families and say no to demanding vulnerable women relive the trauma of being raped simply to claim tax credits.”

Thewliss demands new Work & Pensions Secretary scraps rape clause

As Stephen Crabb starts his new job as Work & Pensions Secretary today, SNP MP Alison Thewliss is calling upon him to make it an “urgent priority to unequivocally scrap the tax credits rape clause”.

Stephen Crabb takes over as Secretary of State for Work & Pensions following the dramatic resignation of Iain Duncan Smith MP at the weekend.

Ms Thewliss said a change in leadership at the DWP was the ideal opportunity for the Government to review its policy agenda and scrap the two child policy and the rape clause with immediate effect.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

Since July 2015, the UK Government has stuck rigidly to its pernicious policy agenda which will seek to limit tax credits to just two children per family. They have been unable to explain how this will work, or how it fits with equalities legislation and the “family test”. Also contained within last year’s budget is an appalling statement which suggests that women whose third child, born as a result of rape, would have to justify this to DWP staff in order to receive benefits. That’s simply not on.

“Before Iain Duncan Smith suddenly found his moral compass and resigned, he seemed to think that this was a perfectly sensible policy; however it’s one which causes serious concern amongst women’s welfare and rape crisis charities.

“As Stephen Crabb gets his feet under the desk at Caxton House today, I believe he needs to give urgent priority to this issue and unequivocally scrap the tax credits rape clause”.

PM ducks rape clause issue again

Prime Minister, David Cameron, has been accused of “shamefully ducking” questions about his Government’s proposed plans for a rape clause on tax credits.

A cross-party group of MPs representing nine parties in the House of Commons – including the Conservatives – recently wrote to the Prime Minister, calling upon him to unequivocally drop plans to introduce a rape clause. The Prime Minister’s plans would, as they stand, require a woman whose third child was born of rape to justify this to a Government official in order to receive tax credit payments.

Over 10,600 people recently signed a petition calling for the proposals to be scrapped. Despite the petition closing a fortnight ago, the Government is yet to respond or acknowledge it.

This week the Prime Minister’s office replied to Ms Thewliss and indicated that the David Cameron would not be responding to the cross-party letter and that he had passed the correspondence from nine cross-party MPs to a junior Treasury Minister for response.

Ms Thewliss commented:

“The Prime Minister is shamefully ducking very legitimate questions about his immoral, unworkable and cruel rape clause proposals.

“Given the serious questions raised, the significant public interest it has attracted and the strong cross-party consensus we have, it is utterly shameful that the Prime Minister is abdicating responsibility on this issue.

“If, as I suspect, he can’t defend this ludicrous policy, then he should at least have the guts to do the right thing and bin these proposals today.”

Cross party letter urges PM to scrap the rape clause

MPs representing nine parties in the House of Commons – including the Conservatives – have signed a joint letter to the Prime Minister calling upon the Government to ‘unequivocally’ scrap the tax credits rape clause.

The Government’s proposals would require a woman, who has a third child as the result of rape, to justify her position to a Government official in order to avoid losing tax credits. The plan to restrict child tax credits to two children for new claimants is due to commence in 2017.

SNP MP Alison Thewliss first identified the issue in July 2015 during the Government’s summer budget. She has now coordinated a cross party letter from MPs representing no less than nine parties in the House of Commons.

In addition to Alison Thewliss’ name, the letter is also signed by Andrew Percy, Conservative MP for Brigg and Goole; Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley; Liberal Democrat MP and former Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, Tom Brake, as well as MPs from the DUP, Green Party, UUP, Plaid Cymru and the SDLP.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“I am incredibly grateful to colleagues from across the House of Commons who have chosen to stand with us as part of the campaign to scrap the rape clause.

“The fact that MPs from all the major parties in the House have put their differences aside to unite on this important issue should, in itself, send a powerful message to the Prime Minister that his Government must unequivocally scrap the rape clause.

“I myself have already raised this issue on the floor of the House numerous times and Ministers’ responses to simple questions have been robotic at best and heartless at worst. We need to seriously ask ourselves, do we really want to be a country that summons raped women to Government offices and tell them to ‘prove it’ in order to get tax credits? Is that really how twenty-first century Britain wants to be behave?

“I am sure that, deep down, David Cameron also doesn’t want us to continue down this precarious road to stigmatisation. The Prime Minister must therefore show leadership and today unequivocally drop plans for a rape clause on tax credits”.