WES Streeting has been slated for continuing to defend “the single most heinous policy” of the Tory austerity years after one of the UK’s most right-wing MPs called for it to be scrapped.

Labour’s shadow health secretary defended his party’s position of keeping the two-child benefit cap despite former home secretary Suella Braverman suggesting it should be pulled in a column for the Daily Telegraph.

Streeting said that dealing with child poverty was “not simply about handouts” as he defended Labour’s U-turn on scrapping the cap.

Labour had been in favour of ditching the policy but reversed the proposal late last summer with shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves suggesting it would be unaffordable.

SNP MP Dr Philippa Whitford has said Streeting’s continued backing of the policy shows “a failure to understand health” as she questioned his logic as a likely future health secretary.

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She insisted getting rid of the cap and the associated rape clause should be the first thing on Labour’s to-do list if they get into government.

Whitford (below) told The National: “It [the child benefit cap] is probably the single most heinous policy to come out of the 14 years of Tory austerity and so this coming from a future health secretary shows, to me, a failure to understand health.

“The NHS is sadly mostly about illness, about picking up the pieces, whereas health and wellbeing comes from multiple things outside that and poverty is the biggest single driver of ill health, particularly child poverty.

“The biggest driver of child poverty has been 14 years of austerity which now Labour are committing to continue.

The National: MP Dr Philippa Whitford

“The idea of deliberately driving children into poverty and the fact Labour would keep this [brings into question] how far they have come from any values they ever espoused?

“I think of all the policies you would commit to reverse, no matter what else is happening, the two-child limit and the rape clause should be the first on the list.”

In an interview with The Independent, Streeting spoke about growing up on a council estate with a single mum, detailing how the benefit system helped them to eat and put money in the electric meter.

But when asked about Labour’s U-turn on the two-child benefit cap, he went on: “I also know that the answer to child poverty, ultimately, is not simply about handouts, it is about a social security safety net, that also acts as a springboard that helps people into work and with good work that makes the cost of living affordable for everyone.

“That means that if you aren’t doing the right thing, and earning a living and playing by the rules, that you don’t just have enough to make ends meet, but you have enough to do the things that make life worth living. And we’re some way from that from that now.”

When Keir Starmer ditched the plans to scrap the two child benefit cap last July a number of Labour MPs including Stella Creasy, Rosie Duffield, and Lloyd Russell-Moyle, as well as Scottish leader Anas Sarwar, spoke out against the U-turn.

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Braverman claimed removing the two-child cap was a “crucial” reform and dedicated her thinking to the late Labour peer Frank Field.

She said “all the evidence suggests” the policy is “aggravating child poverty”.

Alison Thewliss (below), the SNP’s home affairs spokesperson, said it should act as a “wake up call” for Labour when the “darling of the far-right Tories” was calling for an end to the two-child limit.

She added: "Sir Keir Starmer's Labour Party cannot be taken seriously on child poverty while they want to maintain damaging Tory welfare cuts.

The National: Alison Thewliss MP

“The two-child cap and associated rape clause is an appalling policy that punishes families who are already struggling to get by as a result of the Tories’ cost of living crisis.

“In stark contrast to the policies of Tory Westminster, backed by the Labour party, SNP Government policies, including the Scottish Child Payment, are set to keep an estimated 100,000 children out of poverty this year.

“The SNP will continue to campaign for policies that will support families rather than punish them.”

The cap prevents parents from claiming child tax credit or Universal Credit for more than two children.

The associated “rape clause” creates an exception for a child born as a result of non-consensual conception. The UK Government have repeatedly been accused of forcing victims to relive their trauma to prove they have been raped so they can receive child benefits.

Maggie Chapman of the Scottish Greens said it was “staggering” Streeting was continuing to defend the policy.

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“The two-child benefit cap is one of the most disgraceful and cruel policies of this Tory government. It has plunged thousands of children and families into totally avoidable poverty,” she told The National.

“It is absolutely staggering that even Suella Braverman, one of the most reactionary Home Secretaries in living memory, is taking a more progressive position than the Labour Party.

“The Scottish Greens have always tried to use our influence to tackle child poverty and build a more compassionate and humane social security system.

"There is far more for us to do in Scotland, and I hope that any future Labour government would work with us rather than doubling down on brutal Tory policies.”