Belfast Telegraph

Watch live: Bid to introduce same-sex marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland to be debated in Commons

Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

Bids to introduce same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland and liberalise abortion laws is to be debated in the House of Commons, it has been confirmed.

MPs tabled a series of amendments to the Northern Ireland formation bill for debate in parliament on Tuesday.

That bill is aimed at ensuring government could continue to operate in Northern Ireland - and also to delay the Secretary of State's legal obligation to hold an election until at least October.

The amendments tabled aimed to liberalise abortion laws, introduce same-sex marriage deal with compensation for victims of historical abuse and consider a pension for victims' of the Troubles.

Armagh-born MP Conor McGinn - who represents St Helen's North in England - was behind the bid to introduce same-sex marriage. While Stella Creasy

One of the main points of national interest was an amendment tabled by former attorney general Dominic Grieve on preventing parliament being prorogued to get a no-deal Brexit. It was not selected for debate.

There has been speculation in Westminister the same-sex marriage amendment could receive enough support to make it onto the statue books. The SNP said it would give its backing to both the marriage amendment and abortion laws.

Mr McGinn said: "This House has failed LGBT people in Northern Ireland before.

"It failed a generation of people in Northern Ireland by not decriminalising homosexuality and condemn them to discrimination, to abuse and to living in fear many years after that stopped to be the case in the rest of the UK.

"It failed people in Northern Ireland by not extending same-sex marriage when it became the law here making people in Northern Ireland less valued than the rest of us.

"Tonight, we have a chance to do the right thing. People in Northern Ireland - and indeed across Britain and Ireland - are watching.

"I for one am not going to let them down and I hope colleagues in this House don't let them down."

DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds said proposals for the Commons to introduce equal marriage in Northern Ireland "drives a coach and horses through the principle of devolution".

The North Belfast MP said the amendment, which MPs are set to vote on, is "seeking to drive a coach and horses through the principle of devolution, overriding the concerns of people in Northern Ireland".

Independent unionist MP (North Down) Lady Sylvia Hermon said her constituents were concerned about the damage this vote could have on the devolution settlement.

She added: "They are greatly concerned that this amendment might undermine the devolved settlement in Northern Ireland."

DUP MP Ian Paisley, during the opening of the debate asked of the amendment would "de-incentivise" one of the parties in the talks to wait until an October election is called. Mr McGinn said he hoped it would do the opposite.

The vote on the matter is likely to take place at 5pm.

Ahead of the debate Commons speaker John Bercow said his office received a call from an "over-excited" tabloid journalist as to why he would not be chairing the debate.

He explained to MPs it was a long-standing convention, dating back centuries, the Speaker did not oversee committee of the whole house debates. It will be chaired by Dame Eleanor Laing, MP for Epping Forest.

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