Wales: Simon Calvert discusses sex education reforms
Plans to force all secondary schools in Northern Ireland to teach children about abortion access and contraception forced a Tory MP to quit his Government job, it’s been revealed.
Robin Millar, a Welsh MP who only entered parliament in 2019, said the changes were a “conscience matter” for him.
He was one of 20 Conservative MPs to rebel, though the only to have to resign as a result.
Mr Millar had been serving as a PPS to the Welsh Secretary, the lowest rung on the ministerial ladder often condescendingly referred to as a ministerial bag carrier.
The changes to rules in Northern Ireland’s schools are being brought in in response to recommendations made in a UN report.
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Until now, individual schools were free to decide how they teach sex education, giving leeway to those who promote religious values.
However a report by the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) said relationship and sex education in Northern Ireland must be made compulsory and comprehensive.
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said it had always been his preference that as a devolved matter the issue should be dealt with by Northern Ireland’s education department.
“However, nearly four years have passed since the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act 2019, adolescents in Northern Ireland are still not receiving comprehensive and scientifically accurate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights.”
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Robin Millar had previously voiced concerns about similar RSE proposals being introduced in Wales, in which parents will no longer have the right to withdraw their children from such lessons.
Mr Millar said it would be hypocritical for him to support similar reforms being pushed through in Northern Ireland.
He said: “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”.
Mr Heaton-Harris argued the changes “will mirror the approach taken in England with regard to education about the prevention of early pregnancy and access to abortion”.
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