From Skyfall to windfall: How the new Bond film will help out old spies
Nick Clark is the arts correspondent of The Independent. He joined the newspaper in June 2007, initially reporting on the stock markets. He has covered beats including the City, and technology, media and telecoms and made the switch to arts in December 2011. He has also contributed articles to the sports section.
Saturday 20 October 2012
Secretive, mysterious and very difficult to track down.
Not James Bond, but the charities for retired and impoverished spies which are in line for a big windfall thanks to the new 007 film Skyfall.
All proceeds from the world premiere of the 23rd Bond film at the Royal Albert Hall in London next Tuesday will go to supporting former and serving members of the three intelligence agencies, MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.
Skyfall's stars, including Daniel Craig, Dame Judy Dench and Javier Bardem will attend the event, and the film company revealed last month that the guest of honour will be Prince Charles, the Royal Patron of the intelligence services. It was at the prince's request that the spy charities will benefit.
But intrigue surounds the work of these organisations, which turn out to be as secretive as the agencies they support. Spokesmen for the film and Clarence House declines to reveal the charities' names, although The Independent understands that the Assist Fund, which supports members of the Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6, will be one.
It was previously called the Century Benevolent Fund, a reference to MI6's former headquarters Century House, and has been going for over 45 years.
There is scant information available about the Assist Fund. Its registration with the Charity Commission lists it as "relieving poverty and need among current and former employees, or their close relatives, of the Government Communications Bureau and its associated organisations".
In its most recent figures, which unusually withhold the name of the trustees with permission from the Commission, showed the charity had received close to £137,000 in the year to the end of June 2011, and spent £51,700.
There are no contact names or addresses listed other than a PO Box number. Its work is believed to be supplemented by a similar organisation called The Pimpernel Trust, which is registered to the Foreign Office, and its objectives are to "relieve the poverty" of former secret intelligence service, diplomatic service and other members of the intelligence community with housing and healthcare.
GCHQ was more forthcoming over the charity that will receive a windfall from Skyfall. A spokeswoman for the agency revealed that the charity supporting its former and serving staff was called the Government Communication Fund.
But there is even less information about this fund, especially as no such operation is registered, at least under that name, with the Charity Commission. The only accounts readily available were for the financial year that ended June 2007.
Calls into the Home Office failed to reveal the name of the third charity to benefit from the charity gala, which is believed to be supporting the Security Service, or MI5.
The intelligence services have been hugely supportive of the latest James Bond film. It is understood that MI6 has taken a much more active role in advising the filmmakers of Skyfall than ever before.
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