Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 Section 3(2)

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019 (Rule of Law) – in the House of Commons at 10:26 pm on 9th September 2019.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 10:26 pm, 9th September 2019

I would like to speak briefly about the abortion component of the report. I am still aghast at what section 9 of the Executive Formation Act proposes. In Northern Ireland we have developed the different approach to abortion that robust statistical research suggests means that about 100,000 people are alive in Northern Ireland today who would not be had we embraced the Abortion Act 1967. One hundred thousand lives is a lot of people. In this context, it is no great surprise that our approach has clearly helped.

The democratically elected Northern Ireland Assembly considered this matter as recently as 2016 and voted not to change the law in any way. It is no surprise that on 9 July every Northern Irish Member who takes their seat in Westminster voted against an attempt to overturn our law. However, what is particularly shocking, and what is brought out clearly in the report before us today, is something I do not think, with great respect, dawned on most Members of this House when we asked to consider what was then the entirely new clause 9 on 18 July —that it was not present in the provision we debated on 9 July. What is now section 9 does not just overturn our legal tradition; quite astonishingly, it does not require anything to be put in place for five whole months. That goes against what Stella Creasy said.

If the Northern Ireland Assembly is not restored by 21 October, then on 22 October all our law governing will disappear until the point at which a child is deemed incapable of being born alive. I want to put it on record that 60% of those surveyed in a national opinion poll in Northern Ireland said that they did not want any change. I am asking the House today not to make this change against the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland. We had a rally at Stormont where almost 30,000 people walked to retain the rights of the unborn baby in the womb. That has to be preserved.