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UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

Volume 655: debated on Wednesday 6 March 2019

12. What steps she is taking in response to concerns raised by Northern Ireland’s women’s sector representatives at the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. (909571)

The Government recognise the sensitivity of this issue and the range of views expressed by stakeholders on all sides of the debate. We take our obligations under the convention seriously, including having had positive dialogues with the committee very recently.

On 25 February, at CEDAW, the Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland raised a series of concerns, including on the lack of a gender equality strategy and a violence against women strategy, on a gendered approach to post-conflict transition not being applied and on the disproportionate impact of UK Government policies such as the two-child policy and the rape clause. What is the Secretary of State going to do about this? Why will she leave women in Northern Ireland behind?

I absolutely disagree that that is what this Government are doing. We are determined to ensure that we fulfil all our obligations on human rights matters. Many of the matters raised by CEDAW need to be legislated for in Stormont, which is why we need devolved government in Stormont sooner rather than later.

The Secretary of State will know that in Northern Ireland many women believe that both lives matter. Does she agree that this is an issue to be dealt with by the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive and that we should respect the devolution settlement? It is disappointing that the Scottish National party wants to breach the devolution settlement.

I do agree with the right hon. Gentleman on that. Interestingly, even the majority of those people who say in polls that they want to see change to the abortion laws in Northern Ireland—about 64%—are very clear that they want those changes to be made in Stormont.

Order. Colleagues, we are joined for Prime Minister’s questions today—I know that the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) will be keenly interested in this announcement, rather than in his own no doubt fascinating private conversation—by the former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Australian high commissioner. They are both extremely welcome. We value our excellent relations with your country. We admire your nation. We respect your cricketers. And a lot of us have a particularly high regard for your illustrious tennis players. From this Speaker’s point of view, none was greater than the illustrious “Rockhampton Rocket” Rod Laver.