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”.

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.”

New PM implored to stand up for women and scrap rape clause threat

Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, has written to the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, urging her to “stand up for vulnerable women and scrap the rape clause”.

Writing to Theresa May after the Government announced its autumn statement would take place Wednesday 23rd November, the Glasgow MP urged the Prime Minister to do the right thing and abandon the previous Government’s plans to restrict tax credits to two children and compel women whose third child was born as the result of rape to justify this to Department of Work & Pensions officials.

Ms Thewliss has been campaigning for the tax credit changes to be scrapped since July 2015, when they were first announced by the Government. Since then, she has:

This week, the campaigning MP has written to Downing Street, calling upon Theresa May to use the recent change in Government and forthcoming Autumn Statement to abolish the deeply flawed changes to tax credits.

In addition, Ms Thewliss was informed today (Tuesday) that she has been granted a Westminster debate, which she says she will use to “interrogate” Ministers on their proposed plans.

Commenting, the Glasgow Central MP said:

“Theresa May certainly wasn’t shy in weeding out many of the former Prime Minister’s allies in the cabinet, and she is obviously not afraid to do things differently from David Cameron.

“Given that she’s had the courage to do this and to review some of the previous Government’s key policy commitments, I am today calling upon her to scrap a very real and serious policy which is still frightening vulnerable women and welfare charities all over the UK.

“Since summer 2015, I’ve been pursuing the Government on their deeply flawed plans to restrict tax credit payments to two children per family.

“Equally worrying is their medieval plan to introduce a rape clause, whereby certain exemptions will be made – and tax credits paid – if a women can prove her third child was conceived as a result of rape.

“Earlier this year, I had an dreadful meeting with the Welfare Minister, Lord Freud, who struggled to answer basic questions and suggested that women in abusive relationships – where the majority of rapes still happen – should just flee. This showed the Minister to be completely ignorant of the very real dangers some women face.

“I am pleased to have secured a parliamentary debate on this issue to interrogate the Government on their cruel and unworkable policy. Over a year on from announcing it, they still don’t know how it could be implemented.

“A parliamentary debate, change in personnel in Government, as well as the forthcoming Autumn Statement, means that Theresa May has plenty of opportunities to do the right thing, stand up for vulnerable women and scrap the rape clause.

“This needn’t be about saving face for the Prime Minister. It’s about this Prime Minister standing up for other women, doing the decent thing and getting shot of this wicked policy agenda”.

Civil servants’ union blasts rape clause plans

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

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.”