Offences Against the Person Act 1861

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:35 pm on 5th June 2018.

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Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Labour/Co-operative, Walthamstow 5:35 pm, 5th June 2018

I thank every Member who has contributed to this debate. I hope, first and foremost, that the Government have heard what was said by Sir Peter Bottomley, who is my dear friend on this matter. This is a statement of intent. We want deeds, not just words. The women of Northern Ireland—indeed, the women of England and Wales—deserve modern abortion law, and we intend to work to give it to them.

I will repeat what I said in my opening speech to counter the scaremongering of Fiona Bruce, who I am sad is no longer here. She said that our proposal could result in the country providing abortion up to birth. No. This is about repealing sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. It is not about the Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929.

I am disappointed that the Government sent to the debate a Minister from the Northern Ireland Office, who therefore claimed that she could not comment on UK legislation. Ultimately, what we want is a date on which the domestic abuse Bill will be brought to the House and on which the will of the House can be tested—a date not within the next 150 years but within the next 150 days.

I share the concern of Maria Caulfield to hear the voices of the women and men of Northern Ireland. Indeed, I hope that she will go and listen to nationalist voices, particularly that of the vice-president of Sinn Féin, Michelle O’Neill, who has said that legislative change is required and backs this proposal. If the hon. Lady is speaking up for nationalist voices, she should be supporting this proposal.

I am so proud to serve in the House on this issue with Heidi Allen and the right hon. Members for Putney (Justine Greening) and for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry), who have made such a powerful case for change. But above all, I thank Sammy Wilson, who so beautifully illustrated why this change must happen in this House and why it matters. He took the floor to control this debate, because control came easily to him. That sensation of being in control and being able to make decisions about what happens is what we seek for all our constituents. I will stand up for his right as a Northern Irish man to have control over his body. All we are asking is that he stands up for the right of Northern Irish women to have control over their bodies too—not to be criminalised, but to be able to make a choice.

Let me be clear to all Members of this House—the members of the campaign, the MPs who already stand convinced and those who want to hear more arguments—that we will also make a choice: not to give up fighting for equality, not to give up fighting for the 21st century and not to give up fighting for choice for all. We trust all women. Now is the time for Northern Ireland.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House
has considered the role of the UK Parliament in repealing sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.