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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
18 July 2023
Anas Sarwar remains opposed to the two-child benefit cap

Anas Sarwar described the two-child benefit cap as a heinous policy | Alamy

Anas Sarwar remains opposed to the two-child benefit cap

Anas Sarwar has said he remains opposed to the two-child benefit cap after Keir Starmer said he would not scrap the policy if he became prime minister.  

The Scottish Labour leader described the cap as a “heinous policy” but suggested that scrapping the limit immediately “could spook the markets” warning that it could have a similar impact as Liz Truss’s mini-budget.

He told the Scotsman: “I continue to believe that it is a heinous policy that is doing damage to families across the country and that it is exacerbating poverty. I know that my colleagues in the UK party continue to believe that as well. But what they are being up front and straight about is we have to look at the financial circumstances that we’ll find ourselves in.” 

Sarwar added: “We are not going to be able to fix everything straight away and we’re not going to be able to do everything that we want to do or need to do because of the state of that financial crisis. 

"I think having that grown-up approach most people will recognise and appreciate.” 

In an interview last weekend with Laura Kuenssberg Starmer ruled out scrapping the two-child benefit cap, despite vowing to scrap it during his Labour leadership bid in 2020.  

The policy, which was introduced by the Tories in 2017, prevents parents from claiming child tax credit or universal credit for third or subsequent children. There are exceptions for women who have been raped but they must disclose their rape to the Department for Work and Pensions – opponents have labelled this the “rape clause”.  

The latest statistics show that 1.5 million children are affected by the two-child limit.  

Charities, including Action for Children, Child Poverty Action Group, Save the Children UK, End Child Poverty, Barnardo’s, the Children’s Society, and the NSPCC, called for the policy to end, saying it is a “tax on siblings” and is the “biggest driver of rising child poverty in the UK today." 

The U-turn sparked anger amongst Scottish Labour MSPs. 

Carol Mochan described Starmer’s decision as “completely misguided and wrong”, while Pauline McNeill said, “the two-child limit must be scrapped”, adding “we are already failing to meet the child poverty targets in the Child Poverty Targets (Scotland) Act”.   

Mercedes Villalba said: "Keir Starmer was elected leader of the Labour Party on a pledge to scrap the two-child limit. 

"It's what Labour members want, it's what the public expects, and it's what the country needs. Labour must be a party of principle that puts the people first." 

Paul Sweeney said: "A third of Glasgow’s children live in poverty. Life expectancy has stalled for the first time. £1.3bn to abolish the two-child limit would lift 250,000 children out of poverty, and 850,000 more would be in less deep poverty. It is obviously cost-effective. It must be scrapped." 

SNP MP Alison Thewliss MP 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." 

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