Committee meeting was suspended twice
A Holyrood committee was suspended twice after protesters shouted down visiting work and pensions minister Esther McVey.
The Tory politician arrived to angry scenes outside the Scottish Parliament where benefits protesters angrily addressed her.
Later the Scottish Parliament's social security committee was suspended twice when members of the public heckled her.
They shouted abuse when McVey tried to defend the roll-out of Universal Credit and the rape clause.
SNP MSP Ben Macpherson asked her to apologise for the “suffering and distress that has been caused” by the roll-out of the new benefit.
McVey denied it wasn’t working.
She responded: “The aim for Universal Credit is that it is a supportive system, that there is support whether that is getting into work or whether that is support if you can’t get into work, with social security payments.”
People in the public gallery then reacted with outrage, stopping proceedings for several minutes, when the minister referred to claimants who had committed suicide and had payments suspended for missing appointments.
Referring to one protester, McVey stated: “I am not oblivious to people who are incredibly vulnerable or who are in need.
“Obviously the gentleman felt he needed to have his points said about something that was very important to him and about someone who is very vulnerable.
“If anybody does not get that support it’s not through lack of trying, because that’s what people are employed to do.”
There was then further uproar from the public gallery when McVey commented on the two-child benefit limit and rape clause, which led to a further delay in proceedings.
Leading charities including Rape Crisis Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid and Engender have savaged the rape clause, a move by the Tories to cut benefits for more than two children in a family unless the mother can prove she was raped when that child was conceived.
This means that, in order to receive benefits, women who have been raped must be assessed by a “professional third party” – either health workers, police, social workers or rape charities.
Alison Johnstone, the Green MSP, said: “I asked the minister if she was comfortable that women have to prove non-consensual conception in order to access a benefit, and she responded by talking about providing support, which totally misses the point.
“It’s simply astonishing that this invasive and upsetting clause exists, forcing women to put on record events which they wish to remain private.”
Protester Bill Cairns posted on Facebook: “Esther McVey is either the bravest or most arrogant MP in history with her spineless defence of the rape clause. I’ll go for the former.”
Mark Griffin, Labour MSP, warned the system could support financial domestic abuse without automatically splitting payments between partners.
McVey said they are not looking at automatic split payments, but says that will happen where there is the need.