Glasgow MP calls on politicians in Northern Ireland to join her campaign against “chilling” UK Government policy
ALISON THEWLISS, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, has called on MPs from “all major political parties” in Northern Ireland to join her campaign against to scrap the Tory rape clause and two child policy.
Thewliss made the impassioned entreaty at a rally on Thursday (21 September) against the controversial policy hosted by Reclaim the Agenda and Women’s Aid Federation of Northern Ireland.
Given the reliance of Theresa May’s government on Northern Ireland’s right wing Democratic Unionist Party and the embattled Arlene Foster, Thewliss highlighted Northern Ireland’s potential importance in the campaign ahead.
Following the rally, Thewliss – who was the first MP to highlight the rape clause and the issues surrounding it – is now writing to every MP in Northern Ireland in the hope of gaining support for her campaign to end the policy.
“Women in abusive relationships in Northern Ireland should not have to choose either entering the criminal justice system or struggling to make ends meet.” SNP MP Alison Thewliss
Commenting on her appearance at the rally, Thewliss said: “Women in Northern Ireland sent a clear message to the UK Government today – the rape clause stigmatises vulnerable women, places them and professionals at risk of criminalisation and will cause greater poverty and misery, both in Northern Ireland and across the UK.
“Women in abusive relationships in Northern Ireland should not have to choose either entering the criminal justice system or struggling to make ends meet to support their families,” Thewliss continued.
“The chilling effect of the rape clause on rape victims will discourage women from speaking out about the horrific crimes committed against them, which no-one, regardless of their party political persuasion, wants to see happen in a civilised society.
“MPs from all major political parties in Northern Ireland must now combine efforts to end the suffering that women and families have endured from changes to child tax credit entitlement.
“It’s time for a renewed cross party effort to consign the poorly thought-out and abhorrent rape clause to the Downing Street dustbin.” SNP MP Alison Thewliss
“With the UK Government now reliant on the support of Northern Ireland MPs to survive votes in the House of Commons, it’s time for a renewed cross party effort to consign the poorly thought-out and abhorrent rape clause to the Downing Street dustbin.”
Introduced in April 2017, the rape clause refers to the UK Government’s restriction of entitlement to child tax credits for only the first two children of the claimant. Women seeking child tax credits for a third child must prove that it was born as a result of rape.
In order to prove this, they must fill out an eight page form, which must then be validated by an third party professional.
The policy is part of the ‘Child Element’ of Universal Credit, which replaced the former system of Child Tax Credits, which were phased out with the widely criticised introduction of Universal Credit.
When it was announced two years ago, the UK Government justified the two child restriction by saying it wanted “people on benefits to make the same choices as those supporting themselves solely through work”.
The policy, as part of new Department of Work and Pensions rules, was passed without a vote, due to it being added as an amendment on an existing act, in what Thewliss at the time described as an “underhand parliamentary tactic”.
Since its adoption into law, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has refused to condemn the paperwork women are forced to undergo as part of the policy, leading to condemnation from the SNP, Scottish Labour, Scottish Liberal Democrats and Scottish Greens, as well as anti-rape clause campaigners.
Despite the Scottish Government already spending hundreds of millions of pounds mitigating Tory benefit cuts, including the similarly controversial ‘bedroom tax’, Davidson responded to criticism from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon shortly after the rape clause’s adoption by saying: “If the first minister does not like the two-child tax policy, she can change it.”
Picture courtesy of the office of Alison Thewliss MP
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