The UK's home secretary, Jacqui Smith, has given the go-ahead for photography to be restricted in the UK.

In a letter to the National Union of Journalists, Smith said that local restrictions on photography in public places are legitimate.

While she reaffirmed that there are no legal restrictions, she added that local Chief Constables would be allowed to restrict or monitor photography in certain circumstances.

The letter was sent in reponse to a letter from the Union secretary general Jeremy Dear, who expressed concern at the police surveillance of journalists, and in particular, photographers.

"First of all, may I take this opportunity to state that the Government greatly values the importance of the freedom of the press, and as such there is no legal restriction on photography in public places," the letter read. 'Also, as you will be aware, there is no presumption of privacy for individuals in a public place.'

However, the Home Secretary went on, stating: "Decisions may be made locally to restrict or monitor photography in reasonable circumstances. That is an operational decision for the officers involved based on the individual circumstances of each situation.

"It is for the local Chief Constable, in the case of your letter the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Force, to decide how his or her Officers and employees should best balance the rights to freedom of the press, freedom of expression and the need for public protection."

The NUJ is expected to meet with MP Tony McNulty – Minister of State for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing – to discuss the issue.