WORK & Pensions Secretary Esther McVey was heckled today after claiming universal credit’s “rape clause” helps women.
The clause requires benefit claimants to prove their child was conceived through rape to receive tax credits for a third child.
In a Holyrood committee meeting, Ms McVey claimed it offers women potentially “double support” through money and an opportunity to talk about what they went through.
The meeting was suspended after an audience member began shouting and walked out.
Labour MSP Pauline McNeill said Ms McVey’s “disgraceful” performance underlined how out of touch the Tories are on social security and called on the government to abolish the clause.
She said: “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.”
Shadow work & pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood demanded Ms McVey retract her comments and apologise.
She said: “Esther McVey has completely failed to address the very serious issue of a woman being forced to reveal a profoundly traumatic experience to access a benefit.
“Forcing a burden of proof upon survivors of rape is morally wrong.”
Ms Greenwood vowed that a Labour government would scrap the rape clause and transform social security to ensure it is there for those who need it.
The SNP’s Ben MacPherson asked Ms McVey to apologise for the “suffering and distress” caused by the “cynical and critical” universal credit (UC) system, set up by the Department for Work & Pensions to roll several benefits into one direct payment.
Ms McVey argued that UC is a “supportive system,” aimed at helping get more people into work.
An audience member shouted “you can’t get into work if you’re dead” — referring to someone who committed suicide after benefit sanctions.
In February, Ms McVey stepped down from the advisory board of suicide-prevention charity Samaritans after protests by mental health activists highlighting her role in introducing the scheme, which has led to distress for many claimants.
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