The War on Tourism and Photographers - where are the Prohibited Places under the Official Secrets Act 1911 ?

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We are pleasantly surprised that we have actually received a "substantive reply" from the Home Office, to a Freedom of Information Act request, in only 11 working days - they usually manage to exceed the statutory 20 working day limit.

As seem to be usual with the "not fit for purpose" Home Office IT systems, they managed to mangle the email attachment of the Microsoft Word document which they attached, but we eventually uu-decoded it successfully.


To: [email address]
Date: Wed, 02 Jul 2008 12:01:46 +0100

Reference : T13353/8

Thank you for your e-mail enquiry of 17/06/2008 5:19:27 PM

A reply is attached.

This email and any files transmitted with it are private and intended
solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom they are addressed.
If you have received this email in error please return it to the address
it came from telling them it is not for you and then delete it from your system.

This email message has been swept for computer viruses.


Home Office
Direct Communications Unit
2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF
Switchboard 020 7035 4848 Fax: 020 7035 4745 Textphone: 020 7035 4742
E-mail: Website:

[email address]

Reference: T13353/8

2 July 2008

Dear Sir

Thank you for your e-mail of 17/06/2008 5:19:27 PM about the names and locations of "Prohibited Places" declared "by Order of a Secretary of State" under the Official Secrets Act 1911.

The Home Office does not hold the information that you have requested.

However, we have shared your email with the Ministry of Justice. It is possible that the Ministry of Justice may hold some information and that they may write to you in due course.

If you are dissatisfied with this response you may request an independent internal review of our handling of your request by submitting your complaint within two months to the below address:

Information Rights Team
Information and Record Management Service
Home Office
4th Floor, Seacole

During the independent review the department's handling of your information request will be reassessed by staff who were not involved in providing you with this response. Should you remain dissatisfied after this internal review, you will have a right of complaint to the Information Commissioner as established by section 50 of the Freedom of Information Act.

Yours sincerely

On behalf of Will Stuart

If there is no record of any Secretary of State signing an Order to declare anywhere specifically as a "Prohibited Place" under the Official Secrets Act 1911, then that could be quite important in the current War on Tourism and against Photographers' Rights, currently being waged by untrained private security guards, Police Community Support Officers and even by Police Constables.

There are classes of "Prohibited Places" laid down by Acts of Parliament, notably any Licensed Nuclear Site or telephone exchanges (and internet data infrastructure facilities) , or any Civil Aviation Authority airport (e.g. Heathrow) (although the status of photraphy e.g. by plane spotters from outside the perimeter fencing is not clear)

Military bases are usually Prohibited Places by virtue of being owned by the Crown,

However this is no longer automatically the case, for Government buildings, including some Ministry of Defence ones, and most of HM Treasury's HM Revenue and Customs and the Home Office's Identity and Passport Service ID Card / Passport interrogation centres, as some of these are now owned by private companies (some even hiding the legal ownership of these assets in overseas tax havens), and the land and buildings are only leased back to the Government, under various Private Finance Initiative schemes.

We will try sending the same FOIA request to the Ministry of Justice.

Read our original FOIA request, made on behalf of some very worried photographers (ourselves included):

Home Office
Direct Communications Unit
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF


Tuesday 17th June 2008

Dear Sirs,

I am trying to work out where one is not permitted to take photographs, in what might seem to be a public place.

There is a lot of confusion, amongst the public but also amongst private sector security guards or Police Community Service Officers, or even Police Constables, as to where public photography is restricted, and under what legal power.

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000:

Please disclose

1) the name and location of any "Prohibited Place" declared, "by Order of a Secretary of State", either permanently or "for the time being", in accordance with the Official Secrets Act 1911 section 3 Definition of a prohibited place.

2) Any further categories of Prohibited Place as per the Official Secrets Act 1911, defined in subsequent legislation. e.g. Licensed Nuclear Sites under the Nuclear Installations Act 1965, or "a site belonging to or used for the purposes of the United Kingdom Atomic
Energy Authority," as per

Statutory Instrument 1994 No. 968
The Official Secrets (Prohibited Places) Order 1994


"any electronic communications station or office belonging to, or occupied by, the provider of a public electronic communications service"

under the Communications Act 2003

3) Do the restrictions on the right of entry to

"a place belonging to or used for the purposes of the CAA"

under the Civil Aviation Act 1982 section 18 Official secrets

also apply to photography at Civil Aviation Authority Airports ?

4) Is there any other legislation which creates Official Secrets Act 1911 "Prohibited Places" in the United Kingdom, including Scotland or Northern Ireland ?

For reference see:

3.Definition of prohibited place.

For the purposes of this Act, the expression "prohibited place"

[F1 (a)
any work of defence, arsenal, naval or air force establishment or station, factory, dockyard, mine, minefield, camp, ship, or aircraft belonging to or occupied by or on behalf of His Majesty, or any telegraph, telephone, wireless or signal station, or office so belonging or occupied, and any place belonging to or occupied by or on behalf of His Majesty and used for the purpose of building, repairing, making, or storing any munitions of war, or any
sketches, plans, models or documents relating thereto, or for the purpose of getting any metals, oil, or minerals of use in time of war];

any place not belonging to His Majesty where any [F2 munitions of war], or any [F2 sketches, models, plans] or documents relating thereto, are being made, repaired, [F3 gotten,] or stored under contract with, or with any person on behalf of, His Majesty, or
otherwise on behalf of His Majesty; and

any place belonging to [F3 or used for the purposes of] His Majesty which is for the time being declared [F2 by order of a Secretary of State] to be a prohibited place for the purposes of this section on the ground that information with respect thereto, or damage
thereto, would by useful to an enemy; and

any railway, road, way, or channel, or other means of communication by land or water (including any works or structures being part thereof or connected therewith), or any place used for gas, water, or electricity works or other works for purposes of a public character, or any place where any [F2 munitions of war], or any [F2 sketches, models, plans] or documents relating thereto, are being made, repaired, or stored otherwise than on behalf of His Majesty, which is for the time being declared [F2 by order of a Secretary of
State] to be a prohibited place for the purposes of this section, on the ground that information with respect thereto, or the destruction or obstruction thereof, or interference therewith, would be useful to an enemy

Please provide the information requested, ideally by publishing it on your public world wide website, or alternatively by email.

Ideally this should *not* be in the form of a "copy and paste" locked Adobe .pdf file, or similar, attachment.

In the unlikely event that this information is not already available in a standard electronic format, then please explain the reasons why, when you provide the information in another format.

If you are proposing to make a charge for providing the information requested, please provide full details in advance, together with an explanation of any proposed charge.

In the unlikely event that the volume of information in this request would exceed that which can be provided under the Central Government Department budget for an FOIA request, please advise how this request might be modified in order to do so, as per your statutory duty to provide FOIA help and guidance to the public.

If you decide to withhold any of the information requested, you should clearly explain why you have done so in your response, by reference to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 legislation.

If your decision to withhold is based upon an evaluation of the Public Interest, then you should clearly explain which public interests you have considered, and why you have decided that the public interest in maintaining the exception(s) outweighs the
public interest in releasing the information.

If you intend to take extra time in order to apply such a Public Interest test, then you should indicate this fact, and estimate how much longer than the statutory 20 working days this might take, in your substantive reply.

I look forward to receiving the information requested as soon as possible, and in any event, within the statutory 20 working days from receipt of this email i.e. by Thursday 17th July 2008.

Yours Sincerely,


email: [email address]

Name and Address available on request
(not required under the Freedom of Information Act 2000)

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This United Kingdom based blog has been spawned from Spy Blog, and is meant to provide a place to track our Freedom of Information Act 2000 requests to United Kingdom Government and other Public Authorities.

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