Secretary of State Karen Bradley has said she has no powers to make changes to Northern Ireland's laws after protesters called on her to decriminalise abortion.
Abortion is currently illegal in Northern Ireland unless there is a serious risk to a woman’s life or health - as unlike other parts of the UK - Northern Ireland is not covered the 1967 Abortion Act.
Speaking to the Commons Women and Equalities Committee, Bradley said that while not functioning, the institutions in Northern Ireland were not suspended.
"They exist. They could come into being tomorrow if the parties chose that they wish to go back into powersharing," she said.
"Because of that, I, as Secretary of State, have no executive powers to direct the civil servants, the officials in Northern Ireland. I cannot direct a civil servant to do anything under the laws as it currently stands."
Bradley added that she understood people were “frustrated” but that the UK government had “no obligation” to take action.
Protests outside Parliament
The 28 women walking across Westminster Bridge as part of the Amnesty International protest. Image: Niklas Halle'n/AFP/Getty Images.
rotesters from Amnesty International were outside the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday calling for the Northern Ireland Secretary to decriminalise abortion.
As part of the Amnesty protest 28 women, including stars of comedy Derry Girls and Independent Group MP Heidi Allen, are marching on Westminster to demand the extension of abortion rights to Northern Ireland.
Amnesty said the 28 women represent the number of women who fly from Northern Ireland for an abortion each week.
The protest is also delivering a petition, with 62,000 signatures, to the Northern Ireland office calling for abortion rights to be extended to Northern Ireland.
A counter protest also took place organised by Both Lives Matter.
The group held banners saying ‘100,000 people are alive today because of Northern Ireland’s laws on abortion’.