PM finally intervenes in rape clause issue

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.”

UN launches probe into “pernicious” two child policy

SNP MP, Alison Thewliss, has welcomed moves by the United Nations to launch an investigation into the UK’s proposed rape clause and two child policy for tax credits.

In February, Ms Thewliss wrote to Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, and asked the UN to investigate whether the UK Government’s proposed rape clause and two child policy breached the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the UK signed in 1990.

The SNP politician believes that the UK Government’s “medieval” proposals could breach at least five of the fifty-four articles in the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.

Recently, the UN responded to Ms Thewliss and confirmed that it also had concerns about the UK’s proposed welfare policies. Accordingly, the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child will be launching an investigation next week.

Ms Thewliss welcomed the UN’s intervention and said:

“Everyone knows that the medieval two child policy and rape clause is unworkable, immoral and is now almost certainly in contravention of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, which the UK signed up to almost twenty five years ago.

“I warmly welcome the UN’s decision to intervene and shine a very bright light onto this cruel and thoughtless Government, which appears hell bent on making life as difficult as possible for ordinary people.

“It is clear that, over the last ten months, the Tories had hoped this campaign would be quietly dropped but the fact it has caught the attention of the UN suggests this policy is now totally untenable. The UN probe is a major boost to our campaign to end the pernicious two child policy and rape clause.

“This Government simply cannot be allowed to get away with a policy that is tantamount to social engineering.”

Civil servants’ union blasts rape clause plans

Campaigning MP, Alison Thewliss, has warmly welcomed support from one of the UK’s largest trade unions representing civil servants, which has blasted Government plans for a rape clause and two child policy.

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), which represents civil servants, said it was “firmly opposed” to the Government’s tax credit cuts and said they wanted the two child policy and rape clause to be abandoned.

Ms Thewliss, who first drew attention to the policy during the summer budget of July 2015, welcomed PCS union’s support and has called upon Lord Freud, the Government’s Welfare Reform Minister, not to “ride roughshod” over civil servants’ wishes.

Commenting, the Glasgow Central MP said:

“PCS union’s intervention should serve as a major warning to the Government that they cannot ride roughshod over the wishes of UK civil servants.

“The fact remains that the introduction of a rape clause and two child policy would put civil servants in an incredibly awkward position, almost certainly having to ask intrusive and deeply personal questions of vulnerable women, who have been raped and subject to sexual violence. That simply is not on.

“Like me, PCS have repeatedly raised these concerns with the DWP and no answers have been forthcoming about how this can be handled. The reason no answers are forthcoming is because it’s an unworkable, immoral and abhorrent policy.

“Lord Freud and the DWP should listen to, and respect, the wishes of PCS and its members and abandon this offensive and damaging policy agenda without delay.”

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”.

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.”