©UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor

Scottish Labour leader rebukes Keir Starmer over ‘heinous’ two-child benefit cap

The Scottish Labour leader has come out against what he labelled the “heinous” two-child benefits cap, declaring he will lobby Sir Keir Starmer to scrap it.

The two-child limit prevents parents from claiming child tax credit or universal credit for any third or subsequent child born after April 2017.

The Labour leader said on Sunday that he was “not changing that policy”, when asked if he would scrap it if Labour wins the next election. 

Speaking to the Daily Record newspaper yesterday, Mr Sarwar said: “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”.

He said the party does “recognise” that any new Labour government would “inherit economic carnage”, but he added: “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.”

“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”, he said.

Meanwhile, Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s Westminster leader, has also sharply criticised the two-child benefits cap, labelling it “utterly shameful policy”.

He told Sky News the policy “seeks to limit the resource which low-income families can receive from government depending on how many kids they’ve got”, and that is attached to a clause saying that a woman who had been raped has to prove it in order to get benefits.

“What kind of society are we living in where that’s the case?”, he added.

Mr Flynn said he finds it “deeply regrettable that the Labour Party are in full agreement with the Conservatives on this”.

He blasted Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, saying he has “outlined that he doesn’t believe in change when it comes to austerity measures, and that’s deeply, deeply concerning”.

“Going into a general election campaign when the public is looking for real change, this isn’t going to cut it”, he said.

In 2020, deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner tweeted that the “obscene and inhumane two child cap must go”, linking to research which said it was a key factor contributing to women’s decisions to have abortions

Labour MP Meg Hillier also told the BBC’s Westminster Hour programme yesterday: “Well, I was never comfortable about having the child benefit cap come in … personally, I’d be lobbying for a lifting of that”.

Labour chair of the work and pensions committee, Stephen Timms told the i newspaper that “it only really makes sense if you think that families should not have more than two children … as time goes on, the case for the two-child limit will be increasingly hard to make”.

The decision to keep the policy also comes as a major academic study into the effects of the two-child cap concluded the policy it has had a “poverty-producing” impact over the past six years.

The research, published on Monday morning by academics from the Universities of York, Oxford and LSE concluded the two-child limit had no positive incentive effect on employment, nor produced a reduction in fertility among poorer families.

Yesterday, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper insisted that the two-child benefit cap would be kept to ensure fiscal restraint. 

She told Sky News: “We’ve just been really clear. We can only fund it… We’ve got to be clear about what we can fund and that’s why Keir Starmer’s set out the position. Because we’ve got to make sure that any policy that we propose, anything that we might want to change, anything we might not like that the Tories have done, we’ve still got to say how we’d fund it”.