Q&A with Alison Thewliss MP
The Glasgow MP has campaigned vociferously on the issue of the government's revised tax credit policy restricting new claimants to two children
You have been campaigning against the rape clause since it was first mooted at Westminster. How is it going?
The campaign against the two-child limit and the rape clause has now passed the two-year mark – I never expected it to last this long, but have been spurred on by the support of constituents and of a huge range of groups who have encouraged and supported me along the way. I wasn’t sure what would happen after the General Election, but I was pleased to find that there is a new impetus to the campaign now that the Conservative Government has lost its majority.
Have you had support from any surprising quarters?
I have had great support from various faith groups, including the Board of Deputies of British Jews. They were keen to point out that those of religious faith tend to have larger families, and would be disproportionately affected by the family cap in Child Tax Credits and Universal Credit.
What made you take up this particular issue?
The UK Government forcing women to disclose rape just in order to make a claim for tax credits is abhorrent. I have not been satisfied by any of the answers or justification I’ve been given so far – so I intend to keep fighting.
There is a particular issue for women in Northern Ireland, where claims to a third party (a GP, social worker or nurse, for example) under the rape clause require to be reported to the police. This puts women in danger if they have suffered abuse from a current or ex-partner. If the third party doesn’t pass on this information, they themselves could be criminalised. This is completely unacceptable, and the UK Government are in denial that this is a problem. I met with groups in Belfast last week who are committed to holding the Tories to account on this.
Has the new political landscape with a lack of a Conservative majority made it easier or harder for individual MPs to pursue their own hot topics?
I think it’s easier – the Tories are terrified of losing votes. They rolled over on Stella Creasy’s abortion amendment and on having a contaminated blood inquiry, so there is an opportunity there to push on issues where there is no majority. It’s entirely possible that the two-child policy and the rape clause could go too.
What does the SNP group need to do now to be heard?
We need to continue to be a strong voice for our constituents, and to push on issues where we know the Tories are weak, such as WASPI. I hope Labour and the Lib Dems will work with us to defeat the Government. We must also keep holding the UK Government to account on the shambles of Brexit.
How has the feeling in the Commons changed since the election?
Everything feels a lot more brittle – the slightest indication of a close vote sends the whole place into a bit of a panic.
Have you made any new cross-party pals?
I’ve been making an effort to chat to new MPs, particularly female ones. The House of Commons is a bizarre place, and I want to try and be supportive.
What’s the funniest or worst thing that’s happened on your commute between Scotland and London?
The worst thing is unpredictable votes, meaning that you don’t know when or if you’ll get back to Glasgow to see the kids, and the sheer panic of running to get to transport.
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