Labour could implement the so-called rape clause more "fairly", Sir Keir Starmer has said.

The undertaking from the party leader over the “non-consensual conception” exemption to the two-child benefit cap came as he and Anas Sarwar moved to present a united front on welfare reform.

During an ‘in conversation’ event in Rutherglen Town Hall, the two men repeatedly insisted they were not split, despite different approaches to the policy brought in by George Osborne.

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“Enough of the division nonsense,” Mr Sarwar said to the room of activists. "If you want to see what division looks like, talk to Rishi Sunak. If you want to see what division looks like, talk to Humza Yousaf.

"If you want to see what devolution looks like and a hunger and a determination and a ruthlessness to win, come and see me and Keir Starmer.”

In July, when asked about the cap, Sir Keir said he was “not changing that policy” — drawing anger from some of his colleagues.

In Scotland, Mr Sarwar said he would "press" an incoming Labour government to look again at the benefit limit. 

The two-child policy means that households claiming child tax credit or universal credit are unable to claim for a third or subsequent child born after 6 April 2017.

However, there is an exemption for families where a third child is conceived as a result of rape.

But claimants must either be able to point to a conviction for rape or coercing, controlling behaviour, or a Criminal Injuries Compensation scheme award, or have a third party such as a health professional or social worker fill in a form for the DWP.

Recent research by the Nuffield Foundation found that “the majority of the participants eligible” for the non-consensual conception exemption were not receiving it. Many through choice.

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When speaking to journalists after the event, Sir Keir was asked by The Herald about the rape clause and why he would continue making women who had experienced rape need to disclose that attack to allow them to claim benefit for a third child.

“There's nothing that says an incoming Labour government can't make sure that policy we've got will operate more fairly,” he replied. “I think you'd expect that from a Labour government, and you'll get that from a Labour government.”

Asked if that meant he was going to amend or change how the cap operates, he replied: “On any policy, there’s always a question of whether it can operate more fairly. Of course, there is. That will be across the board. Nobody is saying no policy can change ever on anything.

“What we’re being absolutely clear about is that an anti-poverty strategy driven by an incoming Labour government will focus on growing the economy and making sure that we get that growth in every part of the county.

“Because there are different models for growth. You can have a model that says some places make the growth, make the money and then you just redistribute it elsewhere across Scotland.

“I don’t believe in that model. I actually think we should have growth everywhere so that people have the dignity and respect and the self-worth of being part of that growth and seeing the yield of the growth.

“And that is a much deeper, more ambitious anti-growth strategy than specific arguments about this benefit or that benefit."

Sir Keir did not detail how the implementation of the exemption could be changed to make it more fair. As long as there is a cap on the number of children eligible for benefits then there would need to be some form of disclosure to a third party.

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At the event, Sir Keir said Labour could not go into the election making unfunded commitments.

"Liz Truss made unfunded commitments, in her case tax cuts.

"The result was the economy got badly damaged - and who pays? It's not Liz Truss, it's working people. We're never going to let that happen under a Labour government."

Mr Sarwar insisted "there is no division, there is no divide" between him and Sir Keir on welfare.

He added: "Keir and I are both on the same wavelength when it comes to getting rid of this rotten Tory government and being determined to deliver change for people here in Scotland."

He continued: "My view has not changed. Labour was right to oppose the two-child limit.

"But I am also honest in accepting that we cannot go into an election making unfunded pledges. It would be wrong to say to people that we are going to make promises that we cannot keep."

The SNP's candidate for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, Katy Loudon said the only way to improve the non-consensual conception exemption was to scrap it.

“There is no world in which a policy that makes a woman prove if a child was conceived through rape is fair - and for Keir Starmer to say so proves that Labour is just as cruel and out-of-touch as the Tories.

“Saying they will implement the evil Tory policy more fairly seems to be the compromise UK Labour and their Scottish branch office have reached in their desperation to hide the growing list of divisions within the party. It's a disgrace.

“The two-child cap and rape clause is a heinous and inhumane policy - and the Labour party agreed with us on that until they started to get a sniff of power. The Labour candidate in Rutherglen and Hamilton West knows this, which is why he has attempted to distance himself by saying he will vote against it."