Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and concerns with me regarding abortion in Northern Ireland. I read your email carefully and noted the key points that you raised.
I completely understand what an incredibly emotive issue this is, and I appreciate the strength of feelings on both sides. Abortion is a highly sensitive issue, regardless of where one’s view lies and therefore it is important that the matter is considered with enormous care and respect.
I am not aware of the Government changing its minds on the fact that this is a devolved issue for Northern Ireland. The Government believes that any future reform in Northern Ireland must also be debated and decided by the people of Northern Ireland and their locally-elected politicians. Importantly, this is a view shared in Northern Ireland, where there is a cross-party, cross-community consensus that Westminster should not impose its will in this highly sensitive, devolved area. This has been the position of successive UK Governments, both Conservative and Labour, which have never sought to change the law relating to abortion in Northern Ireland given the enormous sensitivities that this issue raises.
It is important to note, however, that the Government has acted in this area: since 29 June last year women from Northern Ireland have had access to free abortion procedures performed in England. This decision hopefully strikes an appropriate balance between respecting the devolution settlement, and supporting women from Northern Ireland in accessing safe and affordable abortion services in England.
I have been assured by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland that any future reform will be handled with due care and consideration - with locally elected and locally accountable politicians having the opportunity to consider and debate the issue, and for the people of Northern Ireland to perhaps have a direct say in the devolved issues that affect their lives.
Restoring the NI Executive remains the Secretary of State's key priority and she has said that she will continue to work closely with Northern Ireland's political parties to try to restore strong, inclusive devolved government at the earliest opportunity.
Once again, thank you for sharing your thoughts and concerns with me. I would like to assure you that I am listening very carefully to the opinions of my constituents, and I will bear your views in mind over the coming weeks and months.
With best wishes.
Jonathan Lord MP
Member of Parliament for Woking