Thank you to the many constituents who have contacted me about the issue of access to abortion in Northern Ireland, following legislation passed recently in Alabama, USA.
The Government recognises the sensitivity of this issue and the range of views expressed by stakeholders on all sides of the debate - regardless of where your view lies it is important that the matter is considered with due care and understanding. When the issue of abortion has previously been debated in the House it has been as a matter of conscience and has been conducted as a free vote; the same applies in Northern Ireland also.
I firmly welcome the Government's position, which has been outlined on many occasions by the Northern Ireland Secretary, that the best way forward is for locally accountable politicians in Northern Ireland to make decisions. Restoring the Executive remains the Secretary of State's key priority and it is very positive news that a new phase of talks began on 7 May.
It is important to note, however, that the Government has acted in this area: since 29 June 2018, women from Northern Ireland have had access to free abortion procedures performed in England. This decision strikes an appropriate balance between respecting the devolution settlement and supporting women from Northern Ireland to access safe and affordable abortion services in England.
In relation to the abortion legislation in Alabama, the UK has a close relationship with the US at all levels. Our friendship does not preclude disagreement with any of our allies and where these exist, my colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will not be afraid to make these clearly heard.