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

Part of Deferred Divisions – in the House of Commons at 8:20 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) 8:20 pm, 16th October 2019

I will not be able to answer all the hon. Gentleman’s questions, but I undertake to write to him after this debate and to try to come back with more details on that front.

The hon. Gentleman also raised the important issue of veterans, and I am certainly happy to respond on that. We are clear that the current system for dealing with the past is not working well for anyone, and we want to see more progress on this issue. The Government remain fully committed to finding a solution for dealing with the legacy of the troubles that works for everyone, and that means a solution that meets the needs of victims and survivors, ensures that members of the armed forces and the police are treated fairly, and complies with the UK’s domestic and international legal obligations.

The Prime Minister has said he wants absolutely to protect the armed forces covenant and protect our veterans, and I absolutely support him in that, and my Secretary of State has undertaken to work with the new office for veterans’ affairs to ensure that we can do that in the appropriate way.

As the report notes on the sensitive issue of abortion, if the duty comes into effect on 22 October, relevant criminal law will be repealed and a criminal moratorium will come into effect, but services are unlikely to be widely available given the policy and delivery considerations required in the following months to implement the new framework, and we are going to work at pace to ensure that the appropriate measures, including publication of further guidance and communications, are brought into effect. I absolutely commit to engaging with women’s groups in the process of the consultation period, and with the medical professionals at the forefront of this issue, making sure we get it absolutely right.

It is important that we move forward in a sensitive manner on these issues. It is clear that the time for the Executive to take this into their own hands and for the parties in Northern Ireland to shape this process is running out; only a matter of days are left for them to be able to step up and influence that process. I come back to a point that was made by Stuart C. McDonald: greater challenges have been overcome in the past by the parties in Northern Ireland being prepared to work together. I would ask them to rise to that challenge, as the House has so clearly demanded today, and to ensure that we have an Executive in place in the shortest possible order.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House
has considered the Report pursuant to section 3(5) of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019, which was laid before this House on Monday 14 October.