HL Deb 19 October 1998 vol 593 cc132-3WA
Lord Alton of Liverpool

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the answer made by Lord Dubs on 5 October (H.L. Deb., Col. 228), whether government time will be made available in the House of Commons for a Private Member's Bill seeking to extend the abortion laws to Northern Ireland; and whether they accept the principle established by John Major MP that the existing laws will not be changed either by a government initiative or by the provision of government time, until a majority of Northern Ireland's elected representatives request such a change. [HL3377]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs)

It is not normal practice to give assurance about whether government time will be found for a Private Member's Bill on any issue. In Northern Ireland terms abortion law is a criminal justice matter and therefore "reserved" to Westminster. This means that any change to existing legislation might be brought about either by legislation at Westminster or, with the consent of the Secretary of State and Parliament, by the devolved administration in Northern Ireland. However, the Government would expect any proposals for change be brought forward on this sensitive issue to reflect extensive consultation with local opinion and with the elected representatives of Northern Ireland.