MPs to vote on Northern Ireland abortion amendment to Queen's Speech


The Government has signalled it will attempt to ease concerns over abortion rights for Northern Ireland women, amid mounting pressure from MPs.

Labour MP Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) has tabled an amendment to the Queen's Speech calling for the Government to ensure adequate funding to allow women from Northern Ireland to have abortions in England without being charged.

Speaker John Bercow confirmed he has selected the amendment to the Government's legislative programme, meaning MPs will have a chance to vote on it at the conclusion of the Queen's Speech debate.

Ahead of the debate, Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom said two Government departments are currently "discussing and looking very closely at this issue today".

Her remarks came after Tory former cabinet minister Maria Miller labelled the current level of abortion access in Northern Ireland as "wrong".

Theresa May's Government has been urged to intervene over abortion laws in Northern Ireland after ministers agreed a £1 billion deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to prop-up her minority administration.

The Government needs the support of the DUP's 10 MPs to pass the Queen's Speech after losing its majority in the General Election.

Speaking in the Commons, Mrs Miller said: "When will the Government be making a statement on access to abortion in Northern Ireland?

"It's wrong that women in Northern Ireland don't have the same access to abortion as women in England, Wales and Scotland, and the High Court has ruled this law contravenes human rights law - which is a responsibility of the UK Government, not a devolved matter.

"When will the Government be making a statement to say how this wrong will be put right?"

Ms Leadsom replied: "This is an incredibly sensitive and important issue, and to be very clear it's my personal view that every woman should have the right to decide what happens to her own body. That is very clear.

"The question of women from Northern Ireland accessing abortions in England is not one of whether they should have that access, it's a question of devolution and the fact that health is devolved to Northern Ireland and therefore it's the question of who should pay for it.

"What I can tell honourable members is the department for equalities and the Department of Health are discussing and looking very closely at this issue today."

Mr Bercow earlier told MPs he had also selected a Labour-led amendment to deliver a Brexit that prioritises jobs and delivers the "exact same benefits" of the European single market and customs union.

Another amendment will push for a softer Brexit that allows Britain to remain part of the single market and customs union.

A Labour source said of Ms Creasy's amendment: "It's likely Stella's amendment will be treated as a matter of conscience which would essentially mean a free vote."