The following are edited extracts from a statement by Jack Straw, the Home Secretary on issues relating to information supplied by Vasili Mitrokhin:

In 1996 the previous government decided that the story which Mr Mitrokhin's information revealed, should be placed in the public domain. It was decided by the previous government that the best way was by way of a proper historical analysis. The material was made available to Professor Christopher Andrew of Cambridge University, whose book, co-authored with Mitrokhin, will be published this week. Sir Malcolm Rifkind, then foreign secretary, has told me that these decisions were made with his consent.

[Melita] Norwood was first vetted in 1945 for access to government secrets while she worked for the British Non-Ferrous Metals Research Association. The Security Service raised doubts about her communist associations, but further investigation by the Service and the police did not substantiate these doubts and she was given clearance for access to sensitive documents.

The Security Service kept her case under review and further investigations raised new concerns. She did not have authorised access to government secrets after September 1949 and her vetting clearance was revoked in 1951. She was vetted again in 1962 but was again refused clearance.

In 1965 the Security Service mounted an extended investigation of Mrs Norwood. The investigation left the service with the view that she had been a spy in the 1940s but it provided no usable evidence to support that view. The home secretary of the day, the Rt Hon Sir Frank Soskice QC, was informed of the service's suspicions. The service decided not to interview her because that would have revealed the service's knowledge which was relevant to other sensitive investigations then under way.

There is no reason to doubt the detail of the material drawn from Mr Mitrokhin, nor that the KGB regarded Mrs Norwood as an important spy. However the vetting system prevented her from having authorised access to government secrets after 1949.

When Mr Mitrokhin's notes of the KGB archive material became available to British Intelligence in 1992, they confirmed suspicions about Mrs Norwood's role. The view was taken by the service that this material did not on its own provide evidence that could be put to a UK court. Moreover, a judgement was made by the Agencies that material should remain secret for some years as there were many leads to more recent espionage.

I was made aware in general terms about the Mitrokhin material in 1997. I was first made aware of the role of Mrs Norwood in a minute in December 1998 which informed me of the plans to publish the book. The minute informed me the Security Service were then considering whether to recommend the prosecution of Mrs Norwood. The Attorney General was made aware of Mrs Norwood's case earlier this year.

The Attorney General's position was explained to me more fully in a note of 29 June which reported that 1992 represented the last opportunity for the authorities to proceed by way of a criminal investigation/possible prosecution. In a minute dated 31 August I was told that the Security Service legal adviser had written to law officers to ask whether Mrs Norwood's alleged admissions to the BBC changed the position on possible prosecution. In a reply to the Security Service earlier this month, the law officers reflected the Attorney General's view that the position was unaffected by the interview.

So far as the Symonds case is concerned, I was not personally briefed on this case until this weekend, though officials in my Department have been aware of it. I understand that his case and claims were investigated at the time. The Law Officers have now been made aware of the case and will be studying the transcript of the forthcoming BBC programme.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with excess, cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings