In order to exercise his right to vote against proposed new laws on sex education in Northern Ireland, a Welsh Conservative MP has resigned from his position as a ministerial aide. Under the new regulations, instruction on how to gain access to abortion services and how to avoid getting pregnant at a young age would be required of students attending any post-primary school in Northern Ireland. He referred to the subject as a “conscience matter” for him, Robin Millar said. On Wednesday, he was one of twenty Conservative MPs who opposed the motion to proceed with the vote.
The regulations were approved with 373 votes in favor and 28 opposed. The regulations were contested by seven members of the DUP. The Member of Parliament for Aberconwy had previously worked as a Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) for David TC Davies, who is the Welsh Secretary. He resigned before casting a vote against the administration. A Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) is an unpaid assistant who acts as their minister’s eyes and ears in parliament. The position is widely regarded as the initial stepping stone towards a ministerial career. Mr. Millar stated that he had similar worries regarding RSE in schools, especially those in Wales.
He stated, “I could not in good conscience represent parents and at the same time ignore the conclusion of the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee that more time was needed to consult with parents in NI before enacting this Statutory Instrument.” The committee had reached the decision that more time was needed to consult with parents in Northern Ireland before implementing this Statutory Instrument. Chris Heaton-Harris, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, stated on Tuesday that he was required to lay the regulations because he was obligated by law to take action on the recommendations given in a report produced by the United Nations.
Up to this point, individual schools in Northern Ireland have determined how to approach the subject of sexual education. However, according to a report by the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, education regarding relationships and sexuality should be made obligatory and should cover a wide range of topics in Northern Ireland. Earlier in the week, Mr. Heaton-Harris made the following statement: “The regulations will mirror the approach taken in England with regard to education about the prevention of early pregnancy and access to abortion.”