The bishop said he was 'personally very sorry' at efforts to ban a peaceful pro-life vigil that he has attended

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth has expressed dismay at a move to ban pro-life vigils outside an abortion clinic in his diocese.

The bishop said the decision, by Portsmouth city council, was part of “ever more draconian restrictions” on freedom of expression.

The council voted 33-1 to do “all within its powers” to prevent pro-life vigils outside an abortion clinic in Milton, Portsmouth.

The vigil, organised by 40 Days for Life, was attended by Bishop Egan last month. At the time he tweeted: “Please pray for the brave participants and for an end to abortion.”

Responding to the council vote, Bishop Egan said: “I am personally very sorry about this. The Portsmouth 40 Days for Life was a peaceful witness in which we offered prayers for the unborn, for mothers facing difficult choices, for medical staff, for families and for a change to the abortion law. We will have to continue this now in other fora.

“The council’s decision is yet another example of the ever more draconian restrictions being placed by our so-called liberal society on freedom of religious expression. With the current tides of regulation, it will become ever more difficult for Catholics to live out and witness to their faith.”

The Portsmouth council decision followed a similar vote at Ealing council in west London. Both councils are investigating the use of public spaces protection orders to criminalise vigils outside abortion clinics.

Several senior politicians – including Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, and Sadiq Khan, London’s Labour mayor – have called for the Government to introduce “buffer zones” to stop vigils across the country.