A Conservative former Northern Ireland secretary has suggested that the legal abortion time limit could be reduced as part of his party’s discussions over forming a government with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party.
The MP Owen Paterson was speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in the wake of growing anger over the DUP’s extreme, religiously informed position on gay rights and abortion.
Mr Paterson said: “I don't see many major social issues coming up in the next Parliament.
“You might get a debate I suppose on further reduction of abortion times as medical science advances.
“But the stuff you mention like gay rights and all that, which you’re probably referring to, that is all devolved.
“It’s not only a free vote issue, most of this, but it’s nearly all devolved and that’s down to the politicians in Northern Ireland to resolve.”
The leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davidson, who is considered the driving force behind the party’s revival in Scotland, and as such the saviour of her party in Thursday’s disastrous general election, has expressed concerns about any agreement with the DUP.
Mr Paterson said: “She’s perfectly fair to raise it... these issues are devolved, and if they were sorted in the UK Parliament they’d be free vote issues. I really don’t see them colouring the talks.”
Mr Paterson instead suggested the focus would be on Brexit.
Abortion is currently illegal in Northern Ireland, unless continued pregnancy poses serious medical risk to the mother. Last year DUP leader Arlene Foster said: “I would not want abortion to be as freely available as it is in England.”
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