Scottish Labour opposed to two-child cap despite Starmer stance

Anas Sarwar has said Scottish Labour is opposed to the two-child benefit cap (Jane Barlow/PA)

Anas Sarwar – valiantly defending Scottish Labour’s plans to increase child benefit.

Current Conservative policy means applicants can only receive benefits for up to two children, with an exemption if the third child was conceived through rape

By Bill Heaney

Scottish Labour Party was in disarray last night after leader Anas Sarwar said his party is against the two-child benefit cap despite UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer saying a government he leads would not scrap the policy.

Sir Keir put his foot in it when he told the BBC on Sunday that his party would not end the practice – which sees people only able to claim child tax credit or Universal Credit on on their first two children – drawing condemnation from Scottish Labour MSPs and trade unionists.

Former leadership contender Monica Lennon said it was the wrong position, while frontbencher Pam Duncan-Glancy described the policy as “horrific”.

Labour’s Monica Lennon and Pam Duncan-Glancy are opposed to two-child limit.

Speaking to The Scotsman newspaper, Mr Sarwar described the policy as “heinous”, but said the party would need to understand the economic outlook for the country before it was scrapped.

But in a later interview with the Daily Record on Monday, Mr Sarwar was not holding back in his opposition.

“Scottish Labour policy has not changed. We continue to oppose the two-child limit. We continue to believe that it exacerbates poverty, and we continue to believe that it needs to change.

“What we recognise is an incoming Labour government will inherit economic carnage and that means we will not be able to do everything we want, and we won’t be able to do everything as fast as we want.

“But we will continue to press any incoming UK Labour government to move as fast as they can within our fiscal rules to remove this heinous policy.”

Mr Sarwar added: “I completely accept that we have to create economic stability. I completely accept that we have to get growth back in our economy.

“But that growth then has to be used to alleviate poverty and to create opportunity. And one way we can do that is removing the two-child limit and reforming Universal Credit.”

The comments come after weeks of pressure on Labour to commit to scrapping the two-child cap, which allows for an exemption if an applicant can prove their third child is conceived as a result of rape, a provision described by opponents as the “rape clause”.

SNP MP Alison Thewliss, who has long campaigned against the policy, said: “It’s time Keir Starmer and his pro-Brexit Labour colleagues listen to the experts and commit to the abolition of the abhorrent, two-child, benefit cap.

“Charities right across the UK have rightly condemned this decision, highlighting how cruel the policy is and the impact it has on children.

“If he won’t listen to his own MPs and MSPs, surely he will listen to the experts?

“Unlike pro-Brexit Labour, the SNP is absolutely clear: we oppose this policy in every form, and will continue to demand its abolition.

“However, only with the full powers of an independent country can we rid Scotland of these callous policies once and for all – and begin to build a fairer, more prosperous country.”

While Ross Greer, the finance spokesman for the Scottish Greens – the SNP’s Government partners in Scotland – said: Mr Sarwar was “all over the place on this”.

He added: “If he is really backing the U-turn then it is beyond shameful but, if he’s not, then he needs to stand up to Starmer clearly and without caveats, rather than saying one thing to one journalist and something else to another.

“There is no reason for Scottish Labour MSPs to go along with this cruelty. They rightly joined the Greens and others to condemn this utterly callous policy from day one.

“Are they going to abandon their principles just because their Westminster leadership says so?”

Artwork by Jane Heaney

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