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Esther McVey says controversial rape clause 'could help victims' talk about their ordeal

Liz Bates

2 min read

Esther McVey has sparked outrage after claiming that rape victims may benefit from recounting their ordeal in order to claim benefits.

The Work and Pensions Secretary said the controversial 'rape clause' gave women "an opportunity to talk" to someone else about what happened to them.

Under current rules, families are only able to claim child tax credits for their first two children.

However, they can claim for further children if they were conceived as the result of rape or within an abusive relationship, details of which must be disclosed during the assessment process.   

Giving evidence to a Scottish Parliament committee, Ms McVey said: "People will be supported and shown to the various other organisations - and again this could give them an opportunity to talk about maybe something that’s happened that they never had before.

"So, it’s potentially double support there - they’re getting the money they need and maybe an outlet they might possibly need."

The comments sparked angry protests from members of the public present at the committee hearing, causing the sitting to be briefly suspended.

Labour MSP Pauline McNeill described the Cabinet minister’s appearance as 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.”

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

“The rape clause is a policy created by the Tory government’s ideological obsession to deliver tax cuts for the richest and big business paid for by cutting support for the poorest.”

Labour backbencher Jess Phillips told PoliticsHome: “Esther McVey has shown how ignorant she is of the issue of sexual violence if she thinks that disclosing to a complete stranger would be a good thing.

“What comfort is that to a woman pregnant from rape? The rape clause has no virtue.”

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.”

Ms McNeill said today the rape clause should be abolished entirely, adding that “Tory attempts to justify their welfare reform are getting more ludicrous by the day.”

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