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Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 Section 3(5)

Part of Deferred Divisions – in the House of Commons at 7:00 pm on 16th October 2019.

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Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Scotland Office) (jointly with the Northern Ireland Office) 7:00 pm, 16th October 2019

I think it is both. The Executive will be required for the Assembly to be in place and to work effectively.

There can be a Northern Ireland solution to this issue, but for that to materialise, Northern Ireland needs the Assembly and Executive back in the coming days. In the absence of a restored Assembly and Executive, the Secretary of State has taken steps to ensure that the Government are ready to fulfil their obligations. As part of the information campaign, my Department has worked closely with the Department of Health and Social Care and published guidance for healthcare professionals to provide clarity on the new state of the law and their duties and responsibilities. The guidance sets out changes in the law in this area, should they come into effect from 22 October 2019, until a new regulatory framework is in place by the end of March.

The immediate changes are the repeal of sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 in Northern Ireland, meaning that no criminal charges can be brought under that Act against women and girls who have an abortion or against qualified healthcare professionals or others who provide and assist in an abortion. There will also be a moratorium on current and future criminal investigations and prosecutions. The Government then have a duty to introduce a new legal framework to come into force from 31 March 2020. It is worth noting that, during this interim period from 22 October until the new legal framework comes into place on 31 March, other relevant laws relating to the termination of pregnancy will remain in place. That includes section 25(1) of the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1945, which makes it a criminal offence for anyone to assist or wilfully act

“to destroy the life of a child then capable of being born alive”,

except where the purpose is to preserve the life of the mother in good faith.

From 22 October, women resident in Northern Ireland can continue to access services in England and will now have all their travel and, where needed, accommodation costs met by the UK Government. Healthcare professionals will be able lawfully to refer patients to services in England by providing the details of the central booking service or directing them to information on gov.uk.