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Restoration of Assembly Powers

Volume 677: debated on Wednesday 24 June 2020

As my hon. Friend knows, following successful talks in January this year, the Executive and Assembly were restored on 9 January with their full powers. We are grateful for the progress that they have made since in delivering public services, bringing to an end the nurses’ pay dispute in Northern Ireland and working alongside other parts of the UK to tackle coronavirus.

My hon. Friend will know that this House has passed draconian laws that have been put on the people of Northern Ireland, particularly in relation to abortion. Can he confirm that it is now up to the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Executive to decide whether to keep those laws, to reform them, or even to revoke them?

As my hon. Friend knows, the regulations to which he refers do not replace or remove powers from the Executive. I remind him that they were introduced and approved by this House via an amendment to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019, following a three-year absence of devolution. We have delivered regulations that came into force on 31 March, as we were required to do. Parliament has now approved the regulations and they remain the law on access to abortion services. Abortion remains a devolved issue, and the Northern Ireland Assembly can legislate on that or amend the regulations, so long as it does so in a way that remains compliant with the CEDAW—convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women—recommendations and convention rights.