Scotland politics

'Rape clause' is awkward, says Scottish Tories' deputy leader

Jackson Carlaw
Image caption Jackson Carlaw insisted the clause should not be scrapped

The deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Jackson Carlaw, has admitted the UK government's so-called rape clause policy is "awkward".

But the MSP defended the measure and said it should not be scrapped.

Welfare reforms introduced earlier this month cut child tax credit and Universal Credit for third or subsequent children.

A number of exemptions to the new rules are in place, including non-consensual pregnancy.

Other exemptions include:

  • adopting children
  • those involved in kinship care
  • multiple births

The so-called rape clause means women who were the victim of rape or conceived while in a coercive relationship will have to declare that their third child was born as a result of this in order to qualify for an exemption.

Speaking on the BBC's Sunday Politics Scotland programme, Mr Carlaw said: "Any form of welfare benefit reform is difficult. It touches on sensitive issues.

"Back in 2015, we were committed to welfare reform and one of those reforms was that there would be a child tax credit for the first two children in each family."

What is the 'rape clause'?

Mr Carlaw said the government had decided a number of exemptions should be made to the policy in consultation with other parties at Westminster.

"Multiple births was one of them, children adopted from care was another and also any child that was born as the result of non-consensual sex.

"We think that it's right that benefit should be attached but I accept it's an awkward policy."

Image caption Angus Robertson branded the policy "heinous"

The leader of the SNP at Westminster, Angus Robertson, said the Scottish Conservatives had been "running away" from the issue ever since the bill passed.

He said the "heinous rape clause" was "a timely reminder that the Tories are the nasty party".

Scottish Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley said: "Jackson Carlaw should be ashamed for defending the abhorrent rape clause his Tory party has introduced.

"Just like Ruth Davidson, the mask has well and truly slipped."

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