THE Tories’ controversial two-child limit on welfare benefits is legal and does not breach people’s human rights, the UK Supreme Court has ruled.

Seven justices unanimously rejected an appeal against the measure brought by lawyers for two lone mothers who argued the limit would worsen child poverty.

They found the rule did have a “greater impact on women”, but said there was a “reasonable and objective justification” for it on cost grounds.

The court found the measure pursued the "legitimate aim" of protecting "the economic wellbeing of the country" by saving money and helping to cut the fiscal deficit.

It said it was "inevitable" that, if that aim was to be achieved, there would be a "disproportionate impact on women, since women are disproportionately represented among parents responsible for bringing up children".

But it said that “Parliament decided that the disproportionate impact of the two child limit on women was outweighed by the importance of achieving its aims. 

“There is no basis on which the Court could properly take a different view.”

The SNP said the ruling was "appalling".

The two-child rule, which came into force in April 2017, restricts Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit to the first two children in a family, with a few exceptions, including rape.

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

Around 243,000 households containing 911,000 children were hit by the two-child limit in its first three years.

The families who appealed to the Supreme Court, who cannot be identified, had both been affected by the limit, as they have children who were born after the new rule came into force.

One woman has three children, one born three months after the policy came into effect, while the other mother has five, the youngest born just a fortnight after the law changed.

They claimed the two-child limit was incompatible with their human rights, including the right to a family life as it discouraged women in receipt of benefits from having children.

The women's barrister, Richard Drabble QC, previously said the limit created "deep and inescapable child poverty" and "imposes pressure to abstain altogether from sexual activity, bring up children in deep poverty, or contravene a moral belief.

"Therefore, it has a very direct impact on people with philosophical or religious objection to abortion."

However Sir James Eadie, the QC for Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey, who insistes the limit is “popular”, argued there was no breach of human rights laws.

He told an earlier hearing the policy was intended to ensure welfare spending was sustainable and fair to the taxpayer, while protecting the most vulnerable.

The High Court had already dismissed their claims and the Court of Appeal had dismissed their appeal before they came before the Supreme Court.

Lord Reed, the president of the Supreme Court, said the Westminster Parliament had been perfectly within its rights to legislate on the matter in the way it had. 

Giving the ruling, he said: “Parliament decided that the importance of the objectives pursued by the measure justified its enactment, notwithstanding its greater impact on women.

“The democratic credentials of the measure could not be stronger.

“It was introduced in Parliament following a General Election, in order to implement a manifesto commitment.

“It was approved by Parliament, subject to amendments, after a vigorous debate at which the issues raised in these proceedings were fully canvassed, and in which the body supporting the appellants [the Child Poverty Action Group] was an active participant. 

“There is no basis, consistent with the separation of powers under our constitution, on which  the courts could properly overturn Parliament’s judgment that the measure was an appropriate means of achieving its aims.”

Carla Clarke of the Child Poverty Action Group said: “This is a hugely disappointing judgment which fails to give any meaningful recognition to the reality of the policy on the ground and its desperately unfair impact on children.

“We know the two-child limit increases child poverty, including child poverty in working households, and forces women to choose between an abortion and raising their families without enough to live on.

“It limits the life chances of children by reducing them from a person to a number.”

Alison Thewliss, the SNP MP for Glasgow Central, who first highlighted the 'rape clause', said the ruling was "appalling" and left a "deeply pernicious" policy intact.

She said: "I am deeply disappointed by this decision, and I pay a huge amount of credit to the Child Poverty Action Group and the mothers who fought so hard to bring the case about.

“The fact remains that this damaging policy restricts entitlement to those who need it most. It makes it almost impossible for many families to get by in these challenging times, and there is evidence that it forces women into an impossible choice between serious financial difficulty or terminating a pregnancy.

“Lord Reed admits that the policy has a disproportionate impact on women, but similarly ruled that it is a legitimate attempt by government to achieve savings in public expenditure and reduce the fiscal deficit.

“This is an appalling interpretation; it is incredibly unfair that this UK Tory government can get away with balancing its books on the backs of women and children, and in this case, some of the most vulnerable in our society.

"This past year has proved beyond doubt that we need a comprehensive social security safety-net. No one can predict the course their lives may take.

“Today’s ruling does not change the fact that this policy remains profoundly pernicious. I will continue to oppose it at every opportunity”.