No debate as two child or rape policy passes
Campaigning SNP MP Alison Thewliss has accused the UK government of trying to sneak through its ‘medieval’ rape clause and pernicious two child policy without a vote or debate.
The rape clause refers to the government’s decision, announced in the 2015 July Budget, to limit tax credits to two children per family – with a couple of exceptions, one of which was if the third child had been conceived as a result of sexual violence. Which means asking survivors of rape to prove it in order to receive tax credits.
The idea of restricting child tax credit to two children, effectively implementing a two child policy, is bad enough.
However, the idea that women should have to relive a painful and traumatic experience as rape to receive social security payments is not only deeply immoral but would be impossible for DWP staff to assess practically.
And part of the MP’s concern continues to be the lack of training for the hundreds of thousands of healthcare and social work staff the government intends to use as third party professionals.
It is intended that they will judge whether a woman’s third child was born as a result of rape and thereby qualifies for an exemption to the ‘two child’ policy.
With just days until the policy comes into force, there is no evidence of sexual violence training having been given to public sector workers.
Late on the afternoon 15 March, the UK government quietly published the statutory instrument which would allow the policy to automatically become law without debate unless there is an objection from either of the Houses of Parliament.
Although Thewliss has now tabled a motion of prayer for annulment, which was signed by a cross-party group of MPs, it is highly unlikely that this will be able to stop the negative procedure, and allow the policy to come into law.
The last time such a statutory instrument was annulled by the Commons using a prayer for annulment was in 1979.
Commenting on this, Thewliss said: “Using such an underhand parliamentary tactic to railroad the rape clause into law is just the final insult this government could possibly dish out.
“Not only did Ministers sneak out their shameful consultation response as the eyes of the world were watching Donald Trump’s inauguration, but they’re now trying to put the rape clause on the statute books without a vote or debate, let alone any detailed scrutiny by MPs.
“The government must accept this policy is unworkable as well as immoral.
“With just days until nurses, doctors and social workers are expected to verify whether women had their third child as the result of rape, it’s clear there’s been no sexual violence training for those working with such vulnerable women.
“This is frankly astonishing, especially when you consider that the government is trying to railroad this through using medieval parliamentary procedures.
“This fight isn’t over yet.
“I’ll do everything in my power to ensure Parliament gets its say on this cruel policy.”