Northern Ireland news

Northern Ireland abortion laws must not be changed in Westminster, says Karen Bradley

Karen Bradley insisted that people in the north do not want MPs making decisions on abortion laws

WESTMINSTER politicians are not qualified to change abortion laws for Northern Ireland, the secretary of state has said.

Karen Bradley insisted that people in the north do not want MPs making decisions on whether to overhaul the existing regime, as she explained the UK government's reluctance to intervene.

She said it was another example of why the Stormont executive needed to be reformed.

The government is facing mounting pressure to reform abortion laws in Northern Ireland after supreme court judges said they were incompatible with human rights legislation.

Unlike other parts of the UK, the 1967 Abortion Act does not extend to Northern Ireland.

Abortion is illegal except where a woman's life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious danger to her mental or physical health.

The assembly voted in February 2016 against legalising abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and rape or incest.

Pro-choice advocates demanded action after a majority of Supreme Court judges last week said the ban on terminations in cases of rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormality needed "radical reconsideration".

Mrs Bradley said the government was still considering the implications of the Supreme Court judgment.

But she added: "My conversations with people here is that they want their voice to be heard and they want their politicians, who they elected, to represent them and to develop laws around abortion that are right for Northern Ireland.

"If I have heard one view I've heard 100 different views about what that law should look like. But there is one thing that's absolutely certain - politicians at Westminster are not the people qualified to determine what the law looks like.

"It absolutely should be done in Stormont."

Meanwhile, the government needs to overcome employment law technicalities before making a final announcement on cutting the pay of members of Stormont's crashed assembly, Mrs Bradley has said.

In March, she said she was "minded" to reduce MLA salaries by almost a third, to reflect the fact the devolved institutions have not sat for around 18 months.

"This is an employment issue here - we are going to cut people's pay - so I just need to make sure we have got all the technicalities and legalities sorted," she said.

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