Northern Ireland news

NIO minister: Stormont must take 'concrete steps' towards abortion services by summer

NIO minister Robin Walker
Staff Reporter

A government minister has warned Stormont to make progress on providing abortion services by the summer or face having them imposed.

Northern Ireland Office minister Robin Walker said the Department of Health must take "concrete steps" during a meeting of a Westminster commitee yesterday.

Members of the First Delegated Legislation Committee voted in favour of allowing Secretary of State Brandon Lewis to directly commission abortion services in the absence of movement.

The vote by MPs was passed with 13 votes in favour and three against.

Implementation of full abortion services has stalled since being decriminalised in 2019 by Westminster, with the Department of Health saying it required agreement at the executive.

Mr Walker told the committee: "If we do not see significant progress before the summer recess, the secretary of state stands ready to issue the direction empowered by these regulations."

DUP Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart told the committee that forcing Stormont to act could damage devolution.

"I do not question the fact that Parliament is legally entitled to legislate for Northern Ireland not withstanding that certain powers are devolved to the assembly," she said.

"But I do question the wisdom of it and the enduring damage it will do to the devolved settlement."

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Northern Ireland news