Offences Against the Person Act 1861

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:33 pm on 5th June 2018.

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Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 3:33 pm, 5th June 2018

l am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman has just undermined the “no precondition” point made by the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley. However, I think that in that context it would be very helpful if the Secretary of State now said to all the parties in the Assembly, “Let us get around the table and discuss abortion law reform.” If this issue matters, it must transcend some of the other issues that have caused blockage in the recent past. That, I know, is a challenge for Northern Ireland Members, in this Westminster Parliament as well as in the Assembly, but it is a challenge that politicians must take up. We must see the Assembly up and running: that is fundamental.

I mentioned the case that is before the Supreme Court, and the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West was absolutely right to ask the question that she put to the Secretary of State. I cannot anticipate how the Supreme Court will respond to the case, but it turns on the question of whether it is compatible with our obligations under the European convention on human rights for women who are bearing children as a result of rape or incest, or children with fatal foetal abnormalities or extreme malformations, not to have access to legal, safe abortion in Northern Ireland. Depending on the direction the Supreme Court takes in its decision, I think the Secretary of State and her Cabinet colleagues will have to consider very seriously how we could begin to address that at the Westminster level; it will be a Westminster issue, not a Stormont issue.