Secrets Act 1911
One of the first priorities of the Intelligence Department [or Bureau] formed under the advice of the Committee of Imperial Defence during the tense build-up to the First World War. 
The Official Secrets Act of 1889 was considered to be cumbrous and impractical, neglecting to confer a power to complete ones evidence by preliminary search on suspicion…[or] prohibit photography or sketching in the vicinity of a military or naval establishment. 
The Bill passed the Lords without incident and was introduced to the Commons on a Friday afternoon when there were only 117 MPs present. It was forced through in under an hour, despite the protests of MPs claiming it was a very unusual and extraordinary thing to pass such a Bill without an opportunity of discussing it.
Bland assurances were given that there would be no danger to anyone engaged in something perfectly innocent. 
Astonishingly, the Act makes it illegal to approach of sketch any prohibited place, and then goes on to say that no proof of intent of purpose prejudicial to the safety of interests of the State is required, this can be inferred from the accuseds circumstances, known character or conduct.
The Act also contains provision to make an offence the wrongful communication of information. This is extremely broad, including any information which has been obtained by the accused owing to his position as a person who holds or has held office under His Majesty [or contracted to His Majesty in any way].
All of this legislation was carried by Parliament in under an hour.
|K.D. Ewing and C.A. Gearty
|The Struggle for Civil Liberties: Political Freedom and the Rule of Law in Britain, 1914-1945
© magnacartaplus.org , 13 May 2001
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