I am aware of a number of recent protests outside some abortion clinics and so the Government launched a review following concerns raised about the tactics of some protesters. This country has a proud history of allowing free speech but the right to peaceful protest does not extend to harassment or threatening behaviour. It is important to bear in mind, however, that the law already provides protection against harassment and intimidation and the police have a range of powers to manage protests. Like all members of the public, protesters are subject to the law and all suspected criminal offences will be robustly investigated and dealt with by the police.
It is sadly the case that some women have been subjected to harassment and intimidating behaviour from protesters when visiting family planning clinics but I appreciate that there are many entirely peaceful pro-life vigils and who do not want to see peaceful protest curbed. I do believe, however, that it is completely unacceptable that anyone should feel harassed.
I understand that the review revealed that anti-abortion demonstrations take place outside a small number of facilities. In 2017, 363 hospitals and clinics in England and Wales carried out abortions and of those, 36 hospitals and clinics experienced anti-abortion demonstrations. I therefore agree with the Government's assessment that introducing national buffer zones would not be an appropriate response given the experiences of the majority of hospitals and clinics.
You may be pleased to know that the Government will publish information on the current legal remedies available to tackle intimidation and I welcome the fact that the Home Secretary has been clear that he will keep this matter under review.