The way in which the issue of abortion and, indeed, the Bill has been handled has been, I believe, unconstitutional, undemocratic, legally incoherent and utterly disrespectful to the people of Northern Ireland, yet the Government are pressing on today with just a derisory one hour’s debate. That is despite the fact that abortion is a devolved policy area and a hugely controversial issue, and despite the shamefully limited scrutiny time we have already had.
The decision to fast-track the Bill was considered contentious even in respect of its limited original purposes. The Lords Constitution Committee recently discouraged the use of fast-tracking in the context of Northern Ireland legislation, except for urgent matters. The amendments to change the substantive law on abortion and, indeed, marriage were outside the scope of the Bill and should never have been debated in this place. What are the constitutional implications for the respect of scope for future parliamentary Bills? It is well known that these matters are of particular sensitivity in Northern Ireland.