Boris Johnson is not planning to scrap the Government’s Universal Credit “rape clause”, despite him branding it an “injustice” that needs rectifying.
The Prime Minister surprised onlookers in the Commons with his remarks on Wednesday, given that the Government has staunchly defended the policy.
A clause in the reforms to limit tax credits to a family’s first two children means women who have further children as a result of rapes can be exempt.
This has been fiercely criticised by campaigners who call for the limit to be abandoned because sexual assault survivors must provide evidence to receive an exemption.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “The Prime Minister supports the absolutely horrendous rape clause in the child tax credit rules.
“Why does he think it’s right that 200 mothers have to prove to the Government their child was conceived as a result of being raped so they can keep their child tax credits?”
Mr Johnson replied: “On his point about the recipients of benefit, he draws attention to an injustice and we will do everything we can to rectify it.”
Mr Corbyn said he hoped the PM’s reply meant he was going to introduce legislation to end the two-child policy.
But a No 10 source was ruling out such a move, instead saying Mr Johnson was criticising the event of any survivor having to inform the Government of her rape.
“It’s really important that women in these awful circumstances get the help that they need and the PM believes that this needs to be done in the most compassionate way possible,” the source said.
“At no point does a claimant have to disclose their rape to a Department for Work and Pensions or HMRC member of staff. It can be to a trusted partner such as a doctor social worker or a rape victim support officer to ensure to can be applied as sensitively as possible.”
Pressed on whether that means the rape clause was staying, the source replied: “The PM was agreeing that having to report any rape to the Government would be an injustice.”
SNP MP Alison Thewliss, a long-term campaigner to end the clause, had earlier predicted that the PM had misspoken.
“My guess is he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The two-child limit and the rape clause stigmatise, impoverish and must be scrapped,” she had said.