KEIR Starmer has said that a Labour government could impose a two-child cap on benefits “more fairly” than a Tory one – and insisted that economic growth should be the first plank of an anti-poverty strategy.

Appearing in Rutherglen on Tuesday, the Labour leader repeatedly refused to commit to scrapping the two-child limit, suggesting that doing so without costing it beforehand would lead to economic turmoil similar to that which followed in the wake of Liz Truss’s mini-budget.

Speaking to journalists after a Q&A event alongside Scottish Labour’s Anas Sarwar, Starmer was asked why Labour could not cost – and then commit to – scrapping the benefit cap.

The National: Anas Sarwar (left) and Keir Starmer appeared to distance themselves from calls to block devolved

He said: “The approach we’ve taken is to set out in terms where we’re going to make adjustments to taxation – that will be the VAT on private schools, the non-dom status etc – and then to set out exactly how that money will be spent.

“That’s the approach we’ll take going into the election and as we get closer to the election any such commitments as we make will be fully funded.”

Asked if his position meant that people affected by the two-child cap were not a priority for his Labour party, Starmer insisted they were an “absolute priority”.

During the Q&A session in front of Labour activists – where the questions were hand-picked and the majority asked by Labour councillor Kirsty Williams – Starmer repeatedly said that growing the economy would be his party’s number one priority.

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The Labour leader said that by growing the economy all across the UK, people could be lifted out of poverty.

“We’ve picked very carefully and number one is growth,” Starmer said of his priorities. “Economic growth, everywhere across the United Kingdom, the highest sustained growth in the G7.

“That’s why, when people say you haven’t set out your vision, you haven’t set out what you stand for, the highest sustained growth in the G7. That is ambitious, it is bold, it is very different to the Tories and the SNP.”

Starmer said that a Labour government’s anti-poverty strategy would focus on economic growth rather than “specific arguments about this benefit or that benefit”.

He told journalists: “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.

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“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."

On stage, Sarwar (below) also took a shot at the Scottish Government's two Green ministers, saying: "We talk a lot about growth, the sad reality is we have government ministers who openly say they don't believe in economic growth. We've got to be more grown up than that, we've got to move past that."

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Asked specifically about the two-child limit afterwards, Starmer said that there was nothing preventing Labour from taking the existing Tory policy and making it operate “more fairly” – without giving specifics.

He said: “There's nothing that says an incoming Labour government can't make sure that policy we've got will operate more fairly.

“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.”