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Public Order Bill: Clause 9 and ECHR

Volume 721: debated on Monday 24 October 2022

My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Sharpe of Epsom) has today made the following written ministerial statement:

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 wish to proceed with the Bill.

The Government have published a separate ECHR memorandum with their 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 forward to continue working with all colleagues on this legislation as the Bill moves through Parliament.