A Scottish Conservative MSP has reignited the long-running political row over the two-child cap on tax credits by claiming “there is no such thing as a rape clause”.
Brian Whittle, who represents the South of Scotland, said it was impossible to debate the controversial welfare reform as “the term rape clause is an invention to beat the Tories with”.
The comment was described as “skin-crawling” by Scottish Labour.
The limit on families claiming tax credits for their first two children was introduced by the UK Government in 2017. One of the exemptions is the so-called “rape clause”, which requires women to prove a child was conceived through rape or during an abusive relationship to qualify for the benefit.
All parties at Holyrood, with the exception of the Scots Tories, have opposed the two-child cap. BMA Scotland described it as “shameful” while Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland have refused to co-operate with the implementation of the policy.
But in an outspoken interview with Holyrood magazine, Mr Whittle said: “This is where politics is appalling, there is no such thing as a rape clause. That’s an invention. There’s an exemption clause.”
He continued: “Why don’t we call it a children in care clause? Because it’s part of the same thing. I’ll tell you what I think about that, there’s a legitimate debate to be had around the child cap that will never happen because, politically, you wouldn’t be allowed to say what you’ve got to say.”
Scottish Labour Social Security spokesman Mark Griffin said: “This is a staggering interview packed with disgraceful comments from Brian Whittle.
“Calling the ‘rape clause’ an invention to attack the Tory party is simply skin-crawling.
“The clause is the product of an unfair cap that was implemented to penalise poor families so George Osborne could hand massive tax cuts to the wealthy.
“Labour across the UK will redesign social security - but Holyrood has the powers to defend families from the cap now. It’s clear that the Scottish Tories are every bit as nasty as their colleagues down south and are happy to leave the cap in place.”
Health secretary Jeane Freeman described Mr Whittle’s comments as a “desperate attempt to deny a rape clause exists in the his own party’s two child cap on benefits”.
She added: “He somehow thinks its unfair for him, a Tory politician, to be held accountable for his party’s destructive policies at Westminster.”