MSPs’ fury over McVey’s ‘rape clause’ com­ments

Holy­rood: Tory work and pen­sions sec­re­tary heck­led at Scot­tish Par­lia­ment as she tries to de­fend Uni­ver­sal Credit

The Courier & Advertiser (Dundee Edition) - - NEWS - GARETH MCPHER­SON PO­LIT­I­CAL EDI­TOR gm­cpher­son@the­courier.co.uk

A UK min­is­ter was heck­led in the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment for sug­gest­ing the “rape clause” gives vic­tims a chance to talk about their or­deal.

Es­ther McVey, the sec­re­tary of state for work and pen­sions, was in­ter­rupted re­peat­edly by pro­test­ers as she tried to de­fend the roll-out of Uni­ver­sal Credit and the ex­emp­tion for sex­ual as­sault vic­tims claim­ing child ben­e­fit.

The an­gry out­bursts led to Holy­rood’s so­cial se­cu­rity com­mit­tee be­ing sus­pended twice for or­der to be re­stored.

Ms McVey re­fused an in­vi­ta­tion to apol­o­gise for “suf­fer­ing and dis­tress that has been caused” by the in­tro­duc­tion of Uni­ver­sal Credit.

That trig­gered fury from the pub­lic gallery about claimants who had com­mit­ted sui­cide and had pay­ments sus­pended for miss­ing ap­point­ments.

“I am not obliv­i­ous to peo­ple who are in­cred­i­bly vul­ner­a­ble or who are in need,” the work and pen­sions sec­re­tary said when the meet­ing re­con­vened.

She said the DWP dis­trib­uted nearly £200 bil­lion a year, adding: “Eighty thou­sand peo­ple are work­ing there to make sure that we reach out to the most vul­ner­a­ble.

“If any­body does not get that sup­port it’s not through lack of try­ing, be­cause that’s what peo­ple are em­ployed to do.”

There were also howls of protests from the gallery over Ms McVey’s com­ments on the two-off­spring limit for child ben­e­fit en­ti­tle­ment and as­so­ci­ated rape clause, which led to a fur­ther de­lay in pro­ceed­ings.

She said the clause of­fered women po­ten­tially “dou­ble sup­port” through pay­ments and an op­por­tu­nity to talk about the or­deal that they may have “never had be­fore”.

Speak­ing af­ter the meet­ing, Ali­son John­stone, the Green MSP, said: “I asked the min­is­ter if she was com­fort­able that women have to prove non-con­sen­sual con­cep­tion in or­der to ac­cess a ben­e­fit, and she re­sponded by talk­ing about pro­vid­ing sup­port, which to­tally misses the point.”

Labour MSP Pauline McNeill said: “To badge up the vile rape clause as some sort of vir­tu­ous pol­icy to pro­vide sup­port is sim­ply skin-crawl­ing.”

Ge­orge Adam, the SNP MSP, de­scribed the min­is­ter’s as­sess­ment that Uni­ver­sal Credit is work­ing well for the “vast ma­jor­ity” of re­cip­i­ents” as “de­void of re­al­ity”.

He said the roll-out of Uni­ver­sal Credit, which has led to de­lays to peo­ple re­ceiv­ing their en­ti­tle­ment, had caused “fi­nan­cial may­hem”.

Ear­lier, the Tory min­is­ter said there were contin­gency mea­sures in place in case the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment is not ready to as­sume full con­trol of cer­tain ben­e­fits by 2021, as agreed under the trans­fer of £2.7bn worth welfare pow­ers to Holy­rood.

Pic­ture: PA.

UK work and pen­sions sec­re­tary Es­ther McVey speak­ing at the Holy­rood com­mit­tee meet­ing.

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