Controversial issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage remain for politicians in Northern Ireland to decide, the Government has said.
Karen Bradley, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, issued a statement reiterating the position on Wednesday, following pressure from politicians seeking to change the law.
It came ahead of an effort to impose same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland being dropped in the House of Lords today. Currently in Northern Ireland, unborn children enjoy strong protections and marriage is exclusively for opposite-sex couples.
In Bradley’s written parliamentary statement she said civil servants had ‘carefully considered’ the issue and produced guidance last year.
Both issues remain devolved matters in Northern Ireland.
“The guidance notes that it does not, and cannot be used to, change the current law on abortion or same sex marriage in Northern Ireland.
“Both issues remain devolved matters in Northern Ireland.”
She added: “I will keep the Government’s position on these sensitive devolved issues under review in light of the UK Government’s legal obligations, and in light of any relevant emerging legal judgments, as appropriate.”
Bradley concluded by saying she wanted local politicians to return to Stormont, “to take important decisions” on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland.
Last year, politicians in Westminster fell short in their attempt to change the law on marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland.
At the time, Fiona Bruce MP said the move was “clearly inappropriate” and reminded MPs of a poll that showed people in Northern Ireland believe changes to abortion law in the Province should not be made by Westminster.
Today, Lord Hayward withdrew his amendment seeking to impose same-sex marriage on Northern Ireland.
However, he said he would return to the issue later during the passage of the Bill.