Offences Against the Person Act 1861

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:19 pm on 5th June 2018.

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Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 3:19 pm, 5th June 2018

I will now make some progress, but I did want to hear from the hon. Lady, given that she secured the debate.

Turning to the situation in Northern Ireland, I am aware that a number of voices are calling for reform, including those of the women and girls most affected, but it is clear to me that there is currently no consensus on what that reform should be, even among those who want to see change in Northern Ireland. For example, there are those in favour of extending abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, or of rape and incest, but others want to extend the laws that apply here to Northern Ireland. There are a number of views, and we have to consider them all respectfully. Of course, all sides in the debate need to be listened to with courtesy and respect.

Abortion has been a devolved matter in Northern Ireland since it was created in 1921, and it would not be appropriate for Westminster to seek to impose its will, or to be the arbiter of an issue that has long been devolved to the people of Northern Ireland. The Government believe that the question of any future reform in Northern Ireland must be debated and decided by the people of Northern Ireland and their locally elected, and therefore accountable, politicians.