SCOTTISH Labour MSP Monica Lennon has called out Keir Starmer after he said his party would not commit to scrapping the two-child benefit cap.

Starmer was making a speech on Thursday morning in Gillingham when he was asked by a reporter from The Sun to confirm whether getting rid of the rule was the party’s policy after shadow work and pension secretary Jonathan Ashworth said last month it was “heinous” and signalled a move away from the "punitive" sanctions regime currently in force.

Asked about Ashworth’s remarks and whether it was Labour’s policy, Starmer said: “Obviously that isn’t our policy and if that changes I’ll let you know.”

Lennon criticised Starmer for not standing against the “abhorrent” policy.

She tweeted: “I know colleagues are scared of deselection, being exiled to backbenches, or not winning selections, but if we don’t speak out then who will?

“The two-child benefit cap (aka the rape clause) is abhorrent and must be scrapped. @UKLabour policies must be progressive and humane.”

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The two-child cap was introduced in 2017 by George Osborne and restricts benefits support to the first two children.

The measure attracted huge controversy over the so-called “rape clause”, which forced women to reveal pregnancies arising from non-consensual sex to qualify for some benefit.

Ashworth said the law was “absolutely keeping children in poverty”.

He told the Mirror last month: “The idea that this policy helps move people into work is completely offensive nonsense.”

SNP MP Alison Thewliss, who has been vocal in her opposition to the policy, said Labour have shown a lack of awareness of the struggles families face.

She said: "The UK Tory Government has pushed millions of people into poverty with its barbaric cuts to social security. It's obscene that they remain so wedded to the two-child cap - despite the overwhelming evidence of the damage it is doing to our society.

“Not only does this harmful Tory policy make it increasingly difficult for families to get by in these challenging times, but there is also evidence that it forces women into an impossible choice between serious financial difficulty or terminating a pregnancy.

“Labour’s failure to commit to scrapping this horrific policy only emphasises their lack of awareness of the serious issues so many families face across these Isles. Just last month, Jonathan Ashworth committed to scrapping it. Now, as we have seen too often from the Labour Party, they have performed a U-turn.”

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A year ago, a report from the Child Poverty Action Group showed the “reckless” policy was not influencing families’ decisions on whether to have more children.

It took a selection of assumptions the Government made when the policy was introduced and debunked them through interviews with families.

When the limit was brought in it was claimed it would influence the decisions made by families on the number of children they plan to have, but the report proved this to be untrue.

While some participants in the study said there were financial considerations, others explained even though they knew they would be impacted by the cap, they still chose to conceive a further child.

The SNP's Westminster Leader, Stephen Flynn, said: "Keir Starmer's failure to commit to abolishing the cruel and callous two-child benefit cap will have shocked voters right across these isles, leaving many wondering what the Labour Party actually stand for.

"It is incumbent on both Keir and Anas Sarwar to confirm that a future Labour UK Government would scrap this callous and cruel policy on day one. 

"Failure to do so will confirm that Labour aren't offering real change - they are only offering to copy disgraceful Tory policies."  

Poverty Alliance director Peter Kelly said politicians have a moral responsibility to scrap "unjust" child limits.

He said: “We need governments that believe in justice and compassion, and who are committed to tackling the human misery being caused by inadequate incomes in Scotland and across the UK.

“We are pleased that Labour have recognised the importance of taking action to tackle child poverty, including a commitment to setting up a cross government task force on the issue. But, with one in three children in Scotland living in poverty, there is also a need for immediate action. They cannot wait.

“All politicians can pledge to renew and restore the social security system that is there for all of us, and which is a lifeline for people on the lowest incomes. That means scrapping the two-child limit, which robs households of money they desperately need and that they are entitled to, along with the immoral and ineffective regime of sanctions and benefit caps.

“Our politicians have a moral responsibility to look out for people. They must fulfil that responsibility.”