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Written Statements

Volume 721: debated on Monday 24 October 2022

Written Statements

Monday 24 October 2022

Health and Social Care

NHS Charging Regulations Exemption for Ukrainians

The Government continue to take measures in response to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine to support those who ordinarily live in Ukraine who have come here to seek safety and support.

In March 2022, my predecessor amended the NHS charging regulations to allow residents of Ukraine, and their immediate family members, who are lawfully in the UK, to access NHS care in England for free, including those who transfer here under official medevac routes. This covers all potential treatment needs, except for assisted conception services, to align with the existing exemption for those whose immigration health surcharge (IHS) fees have been waived.

We committed to review this concession by 17 September. Today I am pleased to announce that my Department has completed its review and has agreed to maintain these concessions for a further 12 months at which point they will be reviewed again.

Those who will continue to benefit from this exemption include:

Anyone who uses an alternative temporary—less than six months—visa route outside of the family or sponsorship routes.

Anyone who chooses to extend their visit or seasonal worker visa temporarily, without going through the IHS system.

Anyone who is in the process of switching visas.

This Government continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with our Ukrainian friends and we are proud to maintain our support for Ukrainian residents in our country.

[HCWS340]

Home Department

Public Order Bill: Clause 9 and ECHR

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.

[HCWS342]

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland: Commissioning of Abortion Services

As Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, I am required under section 9 of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019—the NIEF Act— to ensure that the recommendations in paragraphs 85 and 86 of the 2018 report of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women—the CEDAW report—are implemented in full.

The Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2022, which came into force on 20 May 2022, provide the Secretary of State with the same powers as a Northern Ireland Minister or Department for the purpose of ensuring that the recommendations in paragraphs 85 and 86 of the 2018 CEDAW report are implemented.

Today, I am announcing that the UK Government will ensure the commissioning of abortion services.

21 October marked the three-year anniversary of the decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland. It is not right that three years on, women and girls in Northern Ireland are still unable to access the full range of healthcare to which they are lawfully entitled.

The UK Government have been clear that they would commission abortion services if the Department of Health did not act. We regret that this step is needed, in what ought to be a matter for the Department of Health to implement. The Government have been left with no other option, as women and girls have been left without safe and high quality services, with many having to travel to the rest of the UK or turn to the unregulated market to access healthcare to which they are legally entitled. The devolution settlement does not absolve me of my legal obligation to ensure that women and girls can access abortion services in Northern Ireland, as they can in the rest of

the UK.

I will be meeting the chief executives of health and social care trusts in Northern Ireland in the coming weeks to ensure these services can be provided. Ultimately, it remains the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Executive to fund abortion services in Northern Ireland. The UK Government will ensure that appropriate funding is available to enable healthcare professionals to take the necessary steps to ensure that essential training and recruitment of staff can progress, and services can be implemented.

[HCWS341]