Same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland is an issue “in my in tray”, the UK's minister for women and equalities has said.
Penny Mordaunt told British MPs in the Commons: “I’m very aware that I have a number of issues in my in tray as equalities minister.
“Civil partnerships and equal marriage in Northern Ireland being just two of them.
“We do have private members’ bills before this House and we need to resolve these issues and I will be looking to see what I can do to support those issues being resolved.”
However, her comments in response to a question from UK Labour’s Chris Bryant (Rhondda) sparked a point of order from the DUP.
Speaking during Labour’s urgent question on the Government’s LGBT action plan, Mr Bryant said: “Can I just ask her to see off anybody who starts campaigning for the abolition of civil partnerships and instead extend them to heterosexual couples so that everybody is treated equally under the law.”
He added: “Finally could she make sure that we have same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland or at least a free vote in this House on the matter.”
Gregory Campbell (East Derry) called on Ms Mordaunt to explain, stating: “During questions, the minister for women and equalities in answering a question from (Chris Bryant), indicated that same-sex marriage was, in her words, in her in tray.
“The normal understanding of a minister’s in tray would be that action is about to follow.
“Given that both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland have repeatedly said that that issue is a matter for devolution to decide, I hope that at some very early stage if not now, the minister can return to the despatch box to reconcile that oversight.”
Ms Mordaunt spoke about the large volume of correspondence received on the issue of equal marriage.
She said: “I’m happy to clarify that for him, this is an issue in my in tray, I have a huge number of letters written to me every week on this issue, so I think that qualifies as an issue in my in tray, but I am not bringing forward any legislation on this matter and have stood at this despatch box on that matter and other issues that are for Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland people to decide and urged members and assembly members to come together to represent the people who want answers to these questions.”
She added: “I would say to him, if he wants as I do Northern Ireland to resolve these matters one way or the other, that we must do everything we can to ensure that those political representatives are able to do that.
“On this issue and many others, this House has said that it wishes to resolve those matters, if Northern Ireland doesn’t, that is the position.
“He has my assurance that I will not be bringing forward any measures to address that, the Northern Ireland Office is clearly leading on this, but these matters are in my in tray because I have to respond to people in Northern Ireland who want action and want it to be listened to.”
- Press Association