NI maintains law on marriage and abortion

Politicians in Westminster yesterday fell short in an attempt to change the law on marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland.

MPs did, however, vote to require the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to provide guidance on the issues.

Conservative MP Fiona Bruce and the DUP’s Sir Jeffrey Donaldson warned that the change went against the principle of devolution.

Emergency

Stella Creasy and Conor McGinn were behind the efforts to amend an emergency Bill on Northern Ireland.

Clerks in the House of Commons ruled their amendment which would have prompted changes in the law on marriage and abortion was ‘outside the scope’ of the Bill. This meant MPs did not even debate it.

But their amendment which sought to force the Northern Ireland Secretary to “issue guidance” on same-sex marriage and abortion was debated and passed.

Proper

Fiona Bruce MP said the move was “clearly inappropriate”.

“It goes far beyond the Government’s narrow, specific intention, in framing this emergency Bill”, and influences “key devolved policy matters that should be more properly decided” by the Northern Ireland Executive.

She reminded MPs of a new poll that showed people in Northern Ireland believe changes to abortion law in the Province should not be made by Westminster.

“We must respect that”, she said.

Respect

Sir Jeffrey said politicians should “truly respect” the devolution principle, rather than breaching it.

He added: “In the most recent democratic vote on abortion law of any legislature in the United Kingdom, the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2016—only two years ago—voted by a majority to retain the existing law on abortion in Northern Ireland”, he added.

But despite these protests, MPs last night voted in favour of the amendment by 207 to 117.

The Bill now goes to the House of Lords on Tuesday.

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