Patel confirms Government will again review rules around abortion clinic protests

The Government is to again review the rules around protests in the vicinity of abortion clinics, Priti Patel has announced.

The Home Secretary said “harassment and intimidation is utterly unacceptable” and that it is “absolutely right and proper” that the Government reviews its policies on the matter.

Her comments come after Labour’s Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) said it was “wholly unacceptable” that women were being “plagued by protesters” at a clinic in his constituency.

The Government previously conducted a review into the issue in 2018, with then Home Secretary Sajid Javid concluding that “introducing national buffer zones would not be a proportionate response, considering the experiences of the majority of hospitals and clinics, and considering that the majority of activities are more passive in nature”.

Speaking during Home Office questions, Ms Patel said: “Harassment and intimidation is utterly unacceptable. Important services and advice are being provided and I will reassure him, and I will say to the whole House, we are reviewing our work and policies on this important issue and I think that’s absolutely right and proper.”

On large protests more generally, which have been legally restricted to two people through the Government’s current coronavirus rules, Conservative MP John Howell (Henley) asked: “In this lockdown are we going to abolish them and try to prevent them happening in order to protect officers and indeed the public?”

Home Office minister Kit Malthouse replied: “We all have an individual duty towards our collective health, we hope and believe that the police will be able to encourage the vast majority of our fellow citizens to observe the regulations, but where they don’t – enforcement is an option and we have seen that over the last weekend.”

Mr Malthouse added that the work of the Government’s scientific advisers should be “respected and acknowledged” by MPs.

Responding to shadow home office minister Conor McGinn, Mr Malthouse told the Commons: “In social media and elsewhere there are unpleasant and untrue stories circulating.

“Whether it’s anti-vaccine or the crazy stuff about 5G. And both the NCA (National Crime Agency) and the security and intelligence services are engaged with our partners in the private sector in dealing with removing as much of that disinformation as we possibly can.

“However, we have a role to play in this House as well.

“Us standing together as democratically elected politicians and recognising that those who we charge to assist us in providing advice and data – that their views are respected and acknowledged – has been the basis on which decisions are made legitimately is the right way forward.”

The Government also came under fire over why the agreed one-year extension to migrant healthcare workers’ visas is taking so long to be processed.

Shadow home office minister Holly Lynch said: “Now that we’re in a second national lockdown, why was the visa extension scheme closed at the start of October and why are the permits taking so long to process, only compounding the pressures on healthcare professionals rather than alleviating them?”

Ms Patel replied: “The fact of the matter is that we are doing everything that we possibly can in our power to support the NHS heroes that are working flat out throughout this coronavirus crisis and there will be more activity on this front that will come.”

Meanwhile, fellow Home Office minister Victoria Atkins, responding to Conservative former minister Harriett Baldwin, urged MPs to send a message to their constituents that those experiencing domestic abuse can still leave their homes to seek help, despite new lockdown restrictions.

Ms Atkins said: “I’m more than happy to reiterate loud and clear that victims of domestic abuse can, and please, must if they are able to leave their home addresses to seek help and what is more, the Prime Minister made that very clear in his public statement to the nation a little over a week ago.”

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