Prime Minister, David Cameron, has now personally intervened to respond to requests for clarity surrounding the Government’s proposed rape clause.
Although Alison Thewliss MP said the Prime Minister’s response “raises more questions than provides answers”, the Glasgow MP has nonetheless welcomed the Prime Minister’s personal intervention in the issue. She has written back to him to ask for a face-to-face meeting in Downing Street to press key questions which still cause major concern.
Downing Street initially responded to say that the Prime Minister had asked Treasury Ministers to deal with Ms Thewliss’ letter and questions. However, this week she received a further personal response from the Prime Minister, which suggests that the Government is “thinking very carefully” about how it responds to this “sensitive issue”.
Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:
“Enormous questions still remain unanswered. It is significant that this issue is now being dealt with personally by David Cameron and it represents a major breakthrough in the campaign to scrap the rape clause. I’m grateful to all who have helped put pressure on the Prime Minister thus far.
“I have written to ask David Cameron if he will personally meet with me to answer a number of key questions which remain unanswered and continue to cause serious concern amongst women’s welfare groups.
“In the Lords Report Stage of the Welfare Reform Bill, Lord Freud specifically ruled out an exemption for women who conceive a child in an abusive relationship. We know that the majority of rapes take place within relationships and the majority of abusive relationships also involve sexual coercion. What about women who are raped within marriage and later leave and have to claim benefits?
“There are still major questions about the burden of proof. The DWP are not known for taking people’s word on a range of issues and I don’t have any confidence that they will be able to treat women sensitively.
“We still don’t know what the regulations will look like but my caseload shows evidence of some poor decision making and cases later being overturned. If this was to be the case for a woman who has been the victim of abuse and rape, this will only add to the trauma and indignity of her experience.
“The more this issue rumbles on, the more convinced I am that both the two child policy and rape clause are completely unworkable. This isn’t about point scoring or getting one-up over the Government – it’s about doing what’s right and ditching a proposal that has the potential to cause enormous distress to vulnerable women.”