LABOUR have been accused by the SNP of a “shameful” U-turn on abolishing the two-child benefit cap with numerous senior figures from the party condemning the policy in recent years.

Sir Keir Starmer came under fire – including from within his own party – after he said it was not Labour’s policy to scrap the veto on claiming certain benefits for a third or subsequent child.

It was widely criticised after being introduced by the Tories in 2015, particularly over the clause which means there is an exemption for families where a third child was conceived as a result of rape – if they can offer proof.

Among those who have previously voiced their anger over the policy include Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, who in an interview earlier this year said the rape clause was a “horrific piece of legislation”.

In the party’s manifesto for the 2021 Holyrood election, he also pledged: “We will use the full extent of the Scottish Parliament powers, as well as working with UK colleagues, to abolish the two-child cap, scrap the rape clause and make split payments”.

Labour MP Ian Murray also called for the rape clause to be scrapped during a Commons debate on Scotland’s constitutional future in 2021.

He said: “We could have debated Universal Credit and the £20 uplift becoming permanent, extending it to legacy benefits, removing the rape clause and helping those most in need.”

The National: SNP MP Alison ThewlissSNP MP Alison Thewliss

Meanwhile, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said ending the two-child limit should be part of “restoring a social security system worthy of the name” in a document published in 2020.

And in an interview only last month, shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “We are very, very aware that this [two-child benefit cap] is one of the single most heinous elements of the system which is pushing children and families into poverty today.”

Starmer has pledged to “scrap punitive sanctions, the two-child limit and benefits cap” in a statement published on his website.

But when asked to confirm the policy last week, he responded: “In relation to the benefit cap, that isn’t our policy, and if that changes I’ll let you know.”

SNP MP Alison Thewliss said: “This shameful U-turn from Labour underlines the point that Sir Keir Starmer’s party are no better than the Tories when it comes to social security.

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“This is despite, on no less than six occasions, senior Labour figures – including Sir Keir Starmer, Anas Sarwar and Ian Murray – highlighting how abhorrent this legislation is.

“To date, the Labour Party have U-turned on: abolishing tuition fees, introducing rent controls, introducing free school meals, increasing taxes on the rich and now the scrapping of the two-child benefit cap.

“Voters will rightly ask: can we trust Labour to deliver on anything?

“At the next election, voters must be in no doubt that only the SNP are offering voters a real alternative through independence – which would rid Scotland of disgusting policies like the two-child cap once and for all.”

When asked for comment by the Sunday National, Scottish Labour pointed to remarks made by Sarwar on Friday in response to criticism from the party’s Monica Lennon.

The Central Scotland MSP had said on Twitter: “I know colleagues are scared of deselection, being exiled to backbenches or not winning seats, 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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Sarwar said there were no examples of candidates being deselected for their opposition to policy.

During a visit to the Scottish Gas Academy in Hamilton, he told journalists: “Point me to one deselection, point me to one risk of deselection or one incident in Scotland, that would suggest what has been suggested in that tweet is true.

“It’s simply not true. The only difference that I think there is, is before we didn’t have a Labour party that wanted to win.

“You’ve now got a Labour party that’s serious about winning and I’m never going to apologise for that.”

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, who was also on the visit, said the decision not to immediately propose scrapping the two-child benefit cap as a policy is because the party do not want to “make any promises that we can’t keep”.

The Sunday National also asked the Labour MPs to comment.

Shadow secretary of state for Scotland Murray said: “Labour in government significantly reduces child poverty.

“Our ambition will always be to make sure children have the best start in life.

“We will do so with sound public finances and an economy that works for everyone. The SNP have the powers in Scotland to scrap this pernicious policy but choose not to.

“We will be carrying out a fundamental review of Universal Credit of which this is a part.”