DUP MP for Upper Bann Carla Lockhart has said the regulations tabled in the House of Commons by the Secretary of State today, taking powers over the commissioning of abortion services in Northern Ireland show a total disregard for the devolution settlement.
Carla Lockhart said:
“This is a retrograde step and an over-reach by the Secretary of State.
It is remarkable that the NIO, at a time when the political institutions are already destabilised by the Protocol, have moved to further undermine the devolution settlement.
This issue is a devolved matter, with the responsibility for it resting with the locally elected Health Minister, Robin Swann. He is the one who has been mandated by the people of Northern Ireland to bring forward a plan that reflects local opinion on what is a deeply controversial issue, with passionate views on both sides of the debate. Cognisant of the last 12months, space should have been given to the Minister to bring forward solutions. Yet today, the Secretary of State has grabbed that power. It undermines the Minister, it undermines the Executive, the Assembly and the community of Northern Ireland who elect local MLAs to govern and make difficult decisions about devolved matters.
It is extraordinary that some local parties are welcoming this move. It is particularly surprising that the SDLP, who complained two weeks ago about devolution being undermined by the Government’s plan to open an office in Belfast, are championing this drastic action by Westminster to commission abortion services. Their hypocrisy will not go unnoticed by their voters and the wider public.
This move also sets a precedent and those who support it today have no grounds to complain if the Government move next to impose water charges, harmonise welfare spending or control budgets of Stormont departments. Nothing is off the table now.
Devolution is deeply undermined today. That is not good for stability and political progress here.”