The government agreed to the measure to head off defeat in the Queen's Speech

The government has been strongly criticised after caving in to demands to give women from Northern Ireland free abortions on the National Health Service.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in the House of Commons that the government will provide free abortions for Northern Irish women.

Labour MP Stella Creasy has tabled an amendment to the Queen’s Speech calling for the move, however the DUP, which is propping up the government, strongly oppose it.

If the amendment passes, it will become an integral part of the Queen’s Speech, making it much more difficult for the DUP to support it in the final vote, thus bringing the government to the brink of collapse.

The government’s climbdown was announced in a letter by Equalities Minister Justine Greening.

The decision comes on the same day Northern Ireland’s Appeal Court said abortion law should be left to the province’s Assembly.

Three judges ruled against a ruling by a lower court that Northern Ireland’s abortion law was incompatible with the UK’s Human Rights Act.

Peter D Williams, Executive Office at Right to Life, said: “This decision is an illiberal, anti-democratic, anti-constitutional, disgrace. It will lead to the deaths of many more unborn children, despite the deliberate wish of the Northern Irish people to maintain protections for unborn children from their province, a ‘choice’ that has meant that 100,000 Northern Irish are alive today because the Abortion Act 1967 was never extended there.

“Earlier today, we saw a victory for democracy and human rights, most particularly the right to life of unborn children, as the Courts wisely refused to recognise any non-existent right to abortion, and referred the matter to the representatives of the people in the Stormont Assembly.

“By stark contrast, the UK Government has imposed a decision that directly violates the democratic rights and wishes of Northern Ireland, and commits itself to the killing of babies not just in England, Wales, and Scotland, but Ireland too. This is shameful, and we call on the Government to reverse this decision, and stand instead for the democratic rights of the Northern Irish people, and respect the rights of babies in the womb included in Northern Irish law.”