The new chief of MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service, will be Sir John Sawers, currently ambassador to the United Nations. Sir John will take up his job in early November, replacing Sir John Scarlett, head of the Joint Intelligence Committee in the run-up to the Iraq war, who has spent more than five years in the post.
Gordon Brown's official spokesman insisted yesterday that the move had no connection with the impending Iraq inquiry, at which the outgoing MI6 head is expected to be a key witness. Sir John Sawers had previously been the Foreign Office's political director, worked as an envoy in Baghdad and was foreign affairs adviser to Tony Blair between 1999 and 2001.
The announcement revealed that he was "re-joining SIS", although Mr Brown's spokesman said it would "not be appropriate" to reveal when he had worked for the service before.
Sir John, 52, studied physics and philosophy at Nottingham University, and also attended St Andrews, the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa and Harvard.