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Stormont must accept new abortion rules made in Westminster, minister says

Northern Ireland minister Robin Walker was responding to an urgent question in the Commons from the DUP.

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The Stormont Assembly is now up and running again (Paul Faith/PA)

The Stormont Assembly is now up and running again (Paul Faith/PA)

The Stormont Assembly is now up and running again (Paul Faith/PA)

Stormont must accept new regulations on abortion made in Westminster despite them being rejected by the Assembly, the Northern Ireland minister has told MPs.

MPs in Westminster voted in July to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland if the Stormont Assembly was not up and running by October.

On Tuesday, a DUP motion at Stormont rejecting the “imposition” of abortion regulations by Westminster was carried by 46 votes to 40.

A Sinn Fein amendment, which called for abortions to only be restricted in cases of severe fetal impairments, such as Down’s syndrome, was voted down.

While I respect the Assembly's right to state their position on this, it doesn't have any bearing on the legal obligations that have been placed on us by this ParliamentRobin Walker, Northern Ireland minister

Responding to an urgent question in the Commons from the DUP, Northern Ireland minister Robin Walker said: “I recognise that the Assembly did debate one aspect of the regulations on Tuesday – severe fetal impairment – and passed a motion stating it does not support the provision allowing for abortions in cases of severe fetal impairment without time limit.

“While I respect the Assembly’s right to state their position on this, it doesn’t have any bearing on the legal obligations that have been placed on us by this Parliament.”

DUP Westminster leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the regulations should not be voted on by Westminster as Stormont is back up and running again.

He told MPs: “It was argued that Parliament has 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 and it is absolutely not the right way forward for Parliament to vote on these regulations.”

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Louise Haigh said that more needs to be done to get abortion services fully up and running in Northern Ireland.

She said: “In 2019, this place passed the Northern Ireland Executive Formation Act which has taken effect. Abortion is now legal in Northern Ireland and women there are entitled to the same rights and services as women in all other parts of the United Kingdom.

“We are now tasked with implementing the regulations, setting out the legal framework that will bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK. While abortion is legal in Northern Ireland today, there is limited provision currently available and more needs to be done to get the full service up and running.”

Progressing these regulations now Stormont has returned and following Tuesday’s decision there would show profound lack of respect for the people of Northern Ireland and their elected representativesFiona Bruce, Conservative MP

Conservative MP Fiona Bruce (Congleton) said that the “rushed manner” in which the regulations had been progressed had thrown up “deep flaws”.

She said: “Progressing these regulations now Stormont has returned and following Tuesday’s decision there would show profound lack of respect for the people of Northern Ireland and their elected representatives.

“And the rushed manner in which they were proceeded with here has thrown up deep flaws.”

PA