Use Budget to scrap the rape clause

Alison Thewliss MP joins supporters at the launch of her campaign to scrap the rape clause

On the eve of Philip Hammond’s Budget, Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, has called on the Chancellor to use this vital opportunity to ditch the UK Government’s planned two child policy and rape clause.

With just under a month left until the policy comes into force, the campaigning MP has written to the Treasury, calling upon Chancellor to seize the moment presented by Wednesday’s budget and scrap this pernicious policy, which is opposed by women’s organisations, faith leaders, trade unions, MPs and MSPs from across the political divide.

Ms Thewliss has highlighted the growing concerns regarding delivery of the policy from civil service unions and from respondents to the government’s consultation on this issue. She has also pointed out the Government’s poor preparations for implementing the policy, with no additional training offered for the thousands of healthcare professionals, police officers and social workers who will be tasked with carrying out assessments of vulnerable women and arbitrating on whether or not their circumstances are consistent with rape.

Commenting prior to the Budget Statement, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“With under a month left until the two child policy and rape clause comes into force, it remains the case that this policy is immoral and unworkable. The public have had their say and they are clear – this policy stigmatises vulnerable women and must be consigned to the Downing Street dustbin.

“Serious questions remain about the implementation of the policy, with hundreds of thousands of third party professionals left without the promised training in the policy, and growing opposition from civil servants’ unions. The UK Government is still to introduce the necessary legislation to allow the policy to proceed in 23 days’ time, which underlines my belief that Ministers are slowly realising that this policy is a cruel and unfeasible way to cut benefits.

“With his upcoming budget, the Chancellor has a critical opportunity to save face for this heartless Government and ditch the two child policy and rape clause. I encourage him to do so when he comes before Parliament to deliver his Budget statement.”

Under a month until rape clause – Government has no plan in place

A campaigning MP has reacted with fury in response to a series of written answers to parliamentary questions which show that – with less than a month until the controversial two child policy and rape clause comes into force – the Government is still no further forward in protecting victims of rape.

Alison Thewliss, the SNP MP who first drew attention to the Government’s ‘barbaric’ proposal, had already forced Ministers into a number of corners – first by sparking a United Nations committee probe into the policy, followed by a climb down by Ministers who had to put the policy out to public consultation, despite originally refusing to do so.

In response to the consultation, Ministers indicated it planned to implement a third party professional reporting system, whereby healthcare professionals, counsellors and social workers would be asked by the DWP to arbitrate whether or not a woman’s circumstances were consistent with having been raped.

The bombshell answers given to Ms Thewliss by Ministers indicate that no training has yet been provided to the hundreds of thousands of social workers, doctors and nurses who will be responsible for judging whether or not a woman has been raped.

Alison Thewliss MP said:

“Over a year and a half ago, I exposed this Government’s barbaric plans to limit tax credits to two children per family and ask survivors of rape – whose child had been conceived as a result of sexual violence – to prove it in order to receive tax credits. Throughout this entire time, it’s been abundantly clear that this policy is immoral and unworkable.

“Even by the UK Government’s standards, this is a total mess. These plans are due to come into force in just 27 days and hundreds of thousands of third party professionals haven’t had the training in the policy which was promised. This puts these frontline workers in an incredibly difficult position should a woman come forward to present a claim.

“Any woman making a claim under the rape clause will already have been through unimaginable trauma, and will expect officials to understand the policy and be able to support her. Without training and guidelines, this is impossible; it will only serve to make that woman feel more stigmatised and vulnerable.

“Other departments in Whitehall are openly distancing themselves from the policy and the UK Government hasn’t even laid the necessary regulations before Parliament which would enable this to happen. This is ridiculous when you consider that it’s due to be implemented in just under a month.

“I suspect UK Government Ministers know this is an unworkable, cruel, policy which will cause untold pain and stress for rape survivors. They have had quite long enough to figure this out, and if Ministers don’t voluntarily drop this policy, I’ll be submitting requests to drag Ministers before the despatch box in Parliament every day until they do.”

Rape clause concessions sneaked out as Trump takes centre stage

Alison Thewliss MP joins supporters at the launch of her campaign to scrap the rape clause

SNP MP Alison Thewliss has commented on the UK Government’s decision to use Donald Trump’s inauguration to sneak out details of concessions on its “pernicious” two child policy and rape clause.

The UK Government chose Trump’s inauguration day to issue a response to a controversial public consultation which closed back in November last year.

Alison Thewliss MP said:

“The UK Government clearly tried to sneak out this news just hours before Trump’s inauguration in the hope it would be buried amongst other anti-women headlines in America. That they wanted this callous policy to be buried speaks volumes in itself.

“Women across the world have been marching this weekend in solidarity with America, whilst here in the UK, the Westminster Government ploughs ahead to undermine women’s rights.

“Obviously I am pleased that the UK Government has made a number of concessions, which will go some way to reducing some of the cruellest aspects associated with this pernicious proposal.

“I particularly welcome the u-turn on multiple births and that there will be no time limit on the reporting of rape. What is also encouraging is the decision to remove frontline DWP and HMRC staff from gatekeeping on this incredibly sensitive process. However, there are still fundamental problems with this pernicious two-child policy, not least concerning those of faith and ethnic minority backgrounds.

The UK Government’s own response clearly identifies that the most controversial aspect of the policy was the rape clause. Ministers even go on to concede that most respondents felt it was unacceptable for the UK Government to ask women to re-live the ordeal of a rape just in order to make a claim for benefit. Despite receiving that loud and overwhelming message, this appalling and crass Tory Government refuse to listen.

“The fact remains that this policy, however diluted, is still anti-women, anti-family and fundamentally wicked.

“There are still a number of very serious unanswered questions about the practicalities of a policy due to be implemented in just a few months’ time. I’ll be using this crucial time to fight these proposals all the way, particularly when they come to the House as a statutory instrument.”

Civil servants’ union shunned by DWP on rape clause

Alison Thewliss MP joins supporters at the launch of her campaign to scrap the rape clause

SNP MPs have reacted with fury to news that the Government hasn’t even bothered to discuss its proposed rape clause with PCS, the leading trade union representing civil servants.

The revelation emanates from a written parliamentary question, confirming that Government has not discussed plans for a rape clause, which the MPs argue “would put civil servants in an incredibly awkward position”

An earlier answer to a written parliamentary question suggested that the Government had discussed its plans with a range of stakeholders and organisations. However, upon further questioning by using a device known as ‘pursuant questions’, it was revealed that the main civil servants’ union has been shut out by the Government.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP – who has been leading the campaign against the rape clause and two child policy – said:

“The more this policy is scrutinised, the more flaws we find. The DWP seemed to think sneaking this out to a quick public consultation would be another box ticked and they could plough ahead with their medieval rape clause and pernicious two child policy.

“Momentum is growing ever more amongst a cross-party group of MPs, trade unions, faith communities and third sector groups who are all united in rejecting this appalling policy.”

Chris Stephens MP, who is Chair of the Parliamentary PCS Group, added:

“This Government has been caught trying to bluff their way through answers to written parliamentary questions. It beggars belief that this Tory Government announced plans to bring forward a rape clause over 500 days ago, yet it hasn’t stopped to pick up the phone to trade unions and seek their views. Aside from the utter barbarism of asking women to prove they were raped to receive benefits, it would also put DWP civil servants in an incredibly awkward position. Staff need specific training on this deeply sensitive issue.

“The public consultation might be closed but it is imperative that the Government acts without delay and invites the views of all trade unions and staff within the DWP who would also be affected by this monstrous policy”.

MP Thewliss rails against Tory austerity

Alison Thewliss MP at Buchanan Street Steps

SNP MP Alison Thewliss today took the UK Government to task during a parliamentary debate on Government’s Autumn Statement and its impact on women.

Leading the debate on behalf of the SNP in the Commons, the Glasgow Central MP railed against the recent Autumn Statement which she said was a real “missed opportunity” for women.

Commenting after speaking in Parliament, Alison Thewliss said:

“Today’s debate was an opportunity for us to shine a very bright light on the fact that this Government’s austerity agenda disproportionately impacts women. We know that tax and benefit changes since 2010 will have hit women’s incomes twice as hard as men by 2020. Women will be on average over £1,000 worse off by 2020; for men, that figure will be £555.

“The Autumn Statement was a missed opportunity for our new female Prime Minister to stand up for women. Instead, it appears the Prime Minister has pulled the ladder up behind her.

“As part of the continued economic offensive against women, last month’s Autumn Statement was a missed opportunity to scrap the rape clause and two child policy. It was a missed opportunity to deliver justice for women affected by state pension inequality, who are being forced to work longer for their pension. It was a missed opportunity to give everyone access to a real living wage.

“I also pressed the Minister on the on-going tampon tax. Whilst it’s welcome that the Government is diverting VAT raised from the tampon tax into women’s good causes, the reality remains that I and millions of other women are still being taxed every month for having periods. The Government need to press ahead without haste and secure agreement from Europe to abolish the tampon tax.

“My colleague Angela Crawley MP has been doing a sterling job in campaigning against the 4% fee levied on Child Maintenance Service payments for women and children trying to rebuild their lives after domestic abuse. The Prime Minister must respond to legitimate calls for the Government to axe this cruel tax on child support payments.”

Rape clause minister resigns

Alison Thewliss MP joins supporters at the launch of her campaign to scrap the rape clause

Alison Thewliss MP has welcomed news that the Welfare Minister, Lord Freud, is resigning from the Government.

The Tory Peer, who was handed the welfare reform brief by David Cameron in 2010, has signalled his intention to leave the Government at the end of the month. The SNP MP welcomed this development, saying that Lord Freud was “without doubt one of coldest, heartless and most ignorant politicians” she had ever met.

The un-elected Tory Peer had been tasked with driving the Government’s welfare cuts programme, which includes limiting tax credits to two children per family and a rape clause whereby women who would have to prove their third or subsequent child was born as a result of rape.

Thewliss and Freud clashed earlier in the year during a meeting at the DWP’s headquarters in Caxton House, London. Following the meeting, the Glasgow Central MP condemned Freud’s remark that women who are subject to domestic and sexual abuse should “just flee” their situations.

Commenting on Freud’s resignation announcement, SNP MP Alison Thewliss said:

“Lord Freud was without doubt one of the coldest, most heartless and ignorant politicians I’ve ever had the misfortune of dealing with in almost ten years of elected politics.

“His blatant disregard for some of the most vulnerable women in society was utterly appalling and his departure from Government is a very welcome development. His suggestion that women experiencing abuse from their intimate partner should “just flee” revealed to me how utterly out of touch he was with reality and how unfit he was to be making policy for women and children who have already been through severe trauma.

“With the Government’s rape clause consultation having just closed at the weekend, I am heartened in the knowledge that Freud will no longer be overseeing this medieval and pernicious policy agenda.

“Throughout this entire campaign, I have been of the view that any Minister with a sense of compassion or decency would understand that making women prove they were raped to receive tax credits is utterly degrading and the policy should be scrapped. Lord Freud’s departure from Government gives me a real and renewed sense of hope that this Government will now see sense and ditch this appalling proposal.”

Consultation closes: Government urged to listen and scrap tax credit cuts

Alison Thewliss MP joins supporters at the launch of her campaign to scrap the rape clause

The SNP MP for Glasgow Central, Alison Thewliss, has urged the UK Government to “genuinely listen” and drop its two child policy and rape clause following “sincere and evidence based” concerns submitted in a public consultation.

After almost 450 days of ducking the issue, the UK Government last month quietly put its “medieval” rape clause and “disastrous” two child policy for tax credits out to public consultation, following a lengthy campaign by the SNP MP.

Yesterday (Sunday) saw the closing date for submissions to the consultation. Now Ms Thewliss is calling upon the Government to reflect upon how entirely unworkable a rape clause would be and how disastrous implementing a two child policy would be for family finances.

Commenting after alison-thewliss-mp-response-to-rape-clause-consultation, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“As the Government consultation on the rape clause and two child policy has now closed, I would urge policy officials and Ministers to genuinely listen to the very sincere and evidence based concerns I and many others have submitted.

“If implemented, we now know the rape clause will almost certainly mean that DWP decision makers – with little or no training – are going to be arbitrating on whether or not a woman was raped and whether or not her third or subsequent child should receive tax credits.

“Designing a policy and consultation which asks some of the most vulnerable women in society how they would like to prove they were raped must surely be one of the most insensitive, disgusting and degrading ideas ever to emanate from Whitehall.

“Research by the Resolution Foundation indicates that the two child policy will push an extra 200,000 children, the majority of whose families are already in-work, into child poverty by 2020. These are the very “just about managing” families that the Prime Minister claims to support.

“Whatever way you look at this, it’s bad policy making, it will be disastrous and the Government must use this consultation response to scrap these awful proposals now.”

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

Alison Thewliss MP joins supporters at the launch of her campaign to scrap the rape clause

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.”

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

Alison Thewliss MP joins supporters at the launch of her campaign to scrap the rape clause

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”.