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On Monday 30th October for the first time police used section 7 of the Public Order Act 2023, which bans any act “which interferes with the use or operation of any key national infrastructure in England and Wales”, to order an immediate end to a Just Stop Oil protest taking part in a slow march in Parliament Square.

I include a map of Parliament Square below. One primary feature of it is that it is four roads arranged in a square, such that a blockage at any point can be diverted around. Another feature is that that it is in the middle of London, and is served by one of the best public transport infrastructures in the world. From the common understanding of "key infrastructure", perhaps something like "how much of the functioning of the country is interrupted by the disruption" it is hard to think of a road that is less "key" than any of the four roads that make up Parliament square.

How is "key national infrastructure" defined? Are there any hard rules one could use in choosing a road to protest on that was explicitly NOT key national infrastructure?

Map of Parliament Square

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  • 3
    It is a one-way loop (rotary), so no you can't easily divert around.
    – Jon Custer
    Oct 31, 2023 at 14:59

1 Answer 1

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With regard to roads, "key national infrastructure" are A or B roads, or 'special roads'.

Section 7(6) of the Public Order Act 2023 says:

(6)In this section “key national infrastructure” means—

(a)road transport infrastructure,

(b)rail infrastructure,

(c)air transport infrastructure,

(d)harbour infrastructure,

(e)downstream oil infrastructure,

(f)downstream gas infrastructure,

(g)onshore oil and gas exploration and production infrastructure,

(h)onshore electricity generation infrastructure, or

(i)newspaper printing infrastructure.

Section 8 makes further provision about these kinds of infrastructure. [my emphasis]

Section 8 POA 2023 says (in part):

(2)“Road transport infrastructure” means—

(a)a special road within the meaning of the Highways Act 1980 (see section 329(1) of that Act), or

(b)a road which, under the system for assigning identification numbers to roads administered by the Secretary of State or the Welsh Ministers, has for the time being been assigned a number prefixed by A or B.

I think 8(2)(b) applies to the circumstances in the question.

In the screencap of Google Maps below, we can see labels for two A roads adjacent to Parliament Square: the A302 (part of the London Inner Ring Road) and the A3212. Parliament Square functions as a roundabout (therefore the road around it is one-way) for the A302, which comes from Westminster Bridge (east of the image), goes around Parliament Square and continues south-west (along Broad Sanctuary and then Victoria Street) between the Supreme Court and St Margaret's Church.

Coming from the north, the A3212 runs south along Whitehall, Parliament Street, past Parliament Square, and then Old Palace Yard.

Screencap of Google Maps centred on Parliament Square Garden with landmarks nearby

Section 329(1) of the Highways Act 1980:

“special road” means a highway, or a proposed highway, which is a special road in accordance with section 16 above [F28or by virtue of an order granting development consent under the Planning Act 2008];

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  • Seems odd that motorways ("M" prefix) don't seem to be included under "road transport infrastructure" (as far as I can see from your links).
    – TripeHound
    Oct 31, 2023 at 19:08
  • @TripeHound motorways are among the 'special roads' en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_road
    – Lag
    Oct 31, 2023 at 19:29
  • Thanks. I did skim the 1949 act (at least section 11), but I didn't spot "motorway", hence the question. Either I missed the word, or the act defines the types of special roads, without naming one of those types "motorway".
    – TripeHound
    Oct 31, 2023 at 21:47
  • In summary 'key national infrastructure' sounds like it should only encompass some very few select places but in the law it actually contains a large proportion of all public infrastructure.
    – quarague
    Nov 1, 2023 at 0:42
  • That seems quite clear but don't those Acts at least three things highly questionable? Why are newspaper printing facilities but not broadcasting stations key national infrastructure? HA 1980 seemed too opaque to show me how that or POA 2023 deals with motorways, clearly not prefixed by A or B. Further, what is to stop any or every road being temporarily re-assigned an A or B prefix, however unlikely that sounds in practice? Nov 1, 2023 at 14:01

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