On a free vote with cross-party support, an amendment was inserted into the Public Order Bill by the House of Commons on Tuesday 18 October. Clause 9 establishes designated areas (buffer zones) around abortion clinics where interference with people accessing or providing abortion services would be an offence.
Section 19(1) of the Human Rights Act provides a mechanism to notify Parliamentarians if a statement cannot be made that a clause is compatible with the ECHR, but this does not fetter the right of Parliament to legislate in such a way, should it wish.
I am unable, but only because of clause 9, to make a statement that, in my view, the provisions of the Bill are presently compatible with Convention rights but the Government nevertheless wishes to proceed with the Bill.
The Government has published a separate ECHR memorandum with its assessment of the compatibility of the Bill’s provisions with the Convention rights: this memorandum is available on the Government website.
I am sure this House will naturally wish to debate and scrutinise this amendment further. I look forwarding to continue working with all colleagues on this legislation as the Bill moves through Parliament.
This statement has also been made in the House of Commons