Urgent question on abortion regulations for Northern Ireland

04 June 2020

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, today answered an urgent question from Jeffrey M Donaldson MP, on abortion regulations for Northern Ireland.

The Minister of State (Northern Ireland Office), Robin Walker, responded to an urgent question on abortion regulations for Northern Ireland today in the Commons chamber.

Robin Walker MP: "an extra 28 days to consider and scrutinise the regulations."

The Minister began by telling the House:

"The Government originally laid the abortion Northern Ireland Regulations 2020 in Parliament on 25 March on the provision of abortion services in Northern Ireland. The regulations came into force on 31 March 2020, and became law on access to abortion services in Northern Ireland. The regulations were originally required to be debated by 17 May to remain enforced as law, however the unprecedented situation created by Covid-19 has impacted on parliamentary processes."

This meant that the abortion Northern Ireland no.2 Regulations 2020 were laid and came into force on 14 May, revoking the earlier regulations. This gives parliament an extra 28 days to consider and scrutinise the regulations properly given the nature of this policy.

The Minister said that “the Regulations are due to be debated in this House at the Delagated Legislation Committee on Monday 8 June, and in the Lords after that.”

Responding on behalf of the democratic union party (dup), shadow dup spokesperson, Jeffrey Donaldson, told the House that there is a good legal argument that the Government is under no such obligation to bring the regulation forward for a vote in Northern Ireland.

    Jeffrey Donalson MP: "not the right way forward for Parliament to vote on these regulations."

Mr Donaldson said:

“When this House voted for section nine of the Executive Formation Act it was argued that Parliament had the right to legislate on abortion in Northern Ireland in the absence of a functioning assembly. But that assembly has now been restored for almost five months, so it absolutely is not the right way forward for Parliament to vote on these regulations.”

He continued to tell the House that “the Secretary of State would be well advised not to bring these regulations to a vote because they sanction abortion for non-fatal disability up to birth, something that around 75 members of the assembly this week voted against.”

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