HC Deb 21 May 1992 vol 208 cc490-1
10. Mrs. Gorman

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the provision of pregnancy advisory services in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Hanley

Pregnancy advisory services are an integral part of the comprehensive family planning services that are available throughout Northern Ireland.

Mrs. Gorman

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Brook advisory service, a much respected body which helps women with pregnancy advice, is experiencing a great deal of difficulty and harassment in setting up in Northern Ireland? Is he further aware and concerned, as I am, that fellow citizens—women in Northern Ireland—cannot obtain the full range of pregnancy advice including termination, that is available to women here who want to regulate their families?

Mr. Hanley

My hon. Friend is right to say that there is some controversy about the establishment of a Brook clinic in Northern Ireland. The decision to establish such a clinic was taken by the Eastern health and social services board. It was, therefore, regarded as being required to sustain the health of people in Belfast. It will be established and it will probably have about two sessions a week staffed by Northern Ireland resident staff.

On the other half of my hon. Friend's question, the Abortion Act 1967 does not apply to Northern Ireland. It is not part of Northern Irish law and there are no plans to change that. However, it would always be open to a Member of Parliament to introduce a private Member's Bill, should he so wish.

Mr. William Ross

Given the theocratic stance of the Government of the Irish Republic on these matters, surely the establishment of such a clinic is a matter of great sensitivity. Does the Minister therefore expect a considerable increase in the number of female tourists from the Irish Republic to Northern Ireland if those services are fully provided?

Mr. Hanley

I am not sure that that necessarily follows. The services provided are determined by the Eastern health and social services board, so the matter is decided on local requirements, with no consideration of the demand that might exist somewhere else. It was a controversial decision and it is being treated with great sensitivity. There is a very high level of teenage pregnancy in Belfast, which surely is not good for anybody.