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

Part of Deferred Divisions – in the House of Commons at 7:34 pm on 16th October 2019.

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Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Labour/Co-operative, Walthamstow 7:34 pm, 16th October 2019

I have a lot of respect for the right hon. Gentleman, but on his point about a section 75 consultation, he will find that that is not the case. The whole point about how the 2019 legislation was drafted was that it was about human rights—it was about not devolving human rights. Absolutely, there could be a consultation, but nobody can tell me what non-medical questions we should be asking people who are not medical professionals about abortion. That is the challenge we face.

Women in Northern Ireland deserve honesty. From next week, if the Executive are not reconstituted, will those women be able to get an abortion and, if so, how? That is what the 2019 Act pledged—it pledged to treat them as equal citizens, just as we pledged to treat our fellow citizens who want to marry somebody of the same sex equally. Yet somehow one of those is being disposed of in favour of political gain. At least if the Government were honest about that, women in Northern Ireland could prepare themselves.

I fear what will happen next Tuesday, because we will enter a period in which the Government will try every single trick to undermine this very basic piece of legislation that this House passed. I tell the Minister now, just as I tell the protestors in my constituency: they will not stop us standing up and fighting for the rights of women in Northern Ireland to be treated equally and fairly and to ensure that what this place promised overwhelmingly in July that it would do happens by March 2020. The Government set that deadline, not us. Now we can see why they wanted the delay, but I tell the Minister that it is not in the legislation, it will be contested, and he needs to be honest, if he is going to seek new legislation, that that is what he will do.

Surely, those women who have waited—who have watched rape victims not be able to get abortions, watched women with fatal foetal abnormality suffer and seen parents prosecuted for trying to protect their children in abusive relationships—at least deserve that from the Minister: some honesty.