Abortion in Northern Ireland

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:25 am on 25th March 2021.

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Photo of Carla Lockhart Carla Lockhart DUP, Upper Bann 11:25 am, 25th March 2021

Thank you for granting this urgent question, Mr Speaker. Will the Secretary of State confirm to the House that paragraphs 85 and 86 of the CEDAW report are not legally binding on the United Kingdom, and do not constitute international obligations, as confirmed in the explanatory notes to the 2021 regulations, therefore undermining the whole premise for forcing a change in Northern Ireland’s abortion law in 2019? Can the Secretary of State also confirm that according to the devolution settlement established by the Belfast agreement, access to abortion services is a devolved issue and this action represents a breach of the Belfast agreement? Furthermore, can he confirm that his sole legal basis for intervention in this area is section 9 of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019, and that during the passage of that Bill, which was opposed by every Northern Ireland MP who took their seat, it was made clear that the only reason Parliament was interfering in this issue was that there was no sitting Assembly at that time?

Will the Secretary of State explain why he has chosen to take action to use his powers in relation to abortion under section 9 but has failed to act in his duties in relation to the Executive’s failure to introduce payments for victims, under section 10 of the same Act? I know that the Secretary of State shares my support for the Union, but does he not understand that at the heart of the devolution settlement must be a respect for areas that have been determined to be for the devolved authorities? There is still time for him to think again before he takes action that will undermine and further destabilise the devolved institutions. It is time for the Government to recognise the error of their ways, repeal section 9 and restore Northern Ireland’s life-affirming laws.