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Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:59 pm on 28th October 2019.

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Photo of Julian Smith Julian Smith The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 11:59 pm, 28th October 2019

I will not detain the House for long, given the late hour. Karin Smyth made a series of important points. I will read the report she referred to and would like to discuss further with her the important issue of ensuring that the service provision, pathways and operation of this reform are done in the correct and best manner. I look forward to having further discussions about this.

Gavin Newlands raised several issues, including security. Northern Ireland’s threat level remains at severe, but both the PSNI and the security services continue to play an important role and work extremely hard to protect all citizens in Northern Ireland. He and Gavin Robinson also raised the issue of welfare, and I am looking at that. It is a devolved matter, but I will obviously be looking at it carefully.

Jim Shannon raised a number of issues about the change to abortion law. Obviously, the repeal of criminal offences relates specifically to the procuring of abortion. It does not repeal other relevant criminal laws that exist to protect individuals. Medical procedures are carefully regulated and have to be carried out in regulated premises with appropriate care and oversight. I know how strongly he feels about this, and I would like to continue discussing it with him and others in the House over the coming months of consultation.

The hon. Gentleman’s second point was about the HIA and specifically the Rosetta group of victims of child sex abuse. I spoke to that group this evening, and they reiterated the point and said they had met him this morning. I hope to be able to provide confirmation that we will be dealing with the issues he raised as we bring in the Bill.

The hon. Member for Belfast East spoke of a missing letter. I can assure him that that letter was signed today. It has not been received by his office, but I will ensure that it is on its way. I am confident that it is. I apologise for the speed of that letter.

Stella Creasy, who has worked extremely hard on this policy, is right to raise the fact that we have now moved into the shaping phase for the regulations. We are launching the consultation and she is right that we are a few days later than we had hoped, but we will be producing that over the next few days. We are reflecting on the advice from royal colleges and many others, and I would appreciate the opportunity, once we have launched the consultation, of discussing with her how we address the issues she raised about provision and ensuring access to services.

The hon. Member for Belfast East raised the issue of additional reports. Those are in the House of Commons Library. I would be happy to accompany him so that we can read those reports shortly. He also raised the issue of the budget Bill. I have been fighting for more time for that Bill. We need to get that done. It provides the funding and vital services for Northern Ireland. Whatever the next few days hold, we have to get that Bill through. In all circumstances, election or otherwise, we will have to push through the affirmative statutory instrument attached to this extension.