Esther McVey: child tax credit 'rape clause' is opportunity for victims

Esther Mc Vey was heckled while giving evidence to Holyrood's Social Security Committee

Esther Mc Vey was heckled while giving evidence to Holyrood's Social Security Committee

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey (pictured today) said the clause provides women with "double support" by giving them extra cash and allowing them to talk about what happened to them.

She told MSPs that sexual assault victims having to give DWP staff details of their ordeal, was offering "potentially double support".

Later the Scottish Parliament's social security committee was suspended twice when members of the public heckled her.

The tax credit "rape clause" became law in 2017 without a parliamentary vote, but has subsequently been challenged in court.

There was then further uproar from the public gallery when McVey commented on the two-child benefit limit and rape clause, which led to a further delay in proceedings.

There has been a political row over the policy, which Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has called "disgusting".

Johnstone highlighted opposition to the policy by groups such as Scottish Women's Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland.

Do you as a minister really... you actually are comfortable with the idea that a woman has to prove non-consensual conception in order to access an entitlement?

Ms McVey had previously justified the rules in a statement to the committee, saying: "We believe that this approach strikes the right balance between ensuring claimants in these circumstances get the support they are entitled to in a manner that respects the sensitive nature of the disclosure they are required to make to a relevant professional to obtain the exception, whilst at the same time providing reassurance to the Government that the additional support is going to those for whom it is intended".

'And again this could give them an opportunity to talk about, maybe, something that has happened that they never had before.

Labour MSP Pauline McNeill condemned the minister's comments after the hearing.

She said: "This was a disgraceful performance from a work and pensions secretary who is completely out of touch with the reality of life for low income women on tax credits".

"To badge up the vile rape clause as some sort of virtuous policy to provide support is simply skin-crawling".

Earlier, SNP MSP Ben Macpherson's call for an apology from the United Kingdom minister over the impact of welfare reforms led to shouting from the audience about claimants who took their own lives.

At the meeting of the Social Security Committee, SNP MSP Ben Macpherson called the current Universal Credit system "cynical" and "critical".

But when Ms McVey stated the aim of Universal Credit was for it to be a supportive system, shouts from the viewing gallery halted the session temporarily.

"Obviously the gentleman felt he needed to have his points said about something that was very important to him and about someone who is very vulnerable".