Spies have to accept 8% cut spending

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Indy Politics
Britain's spies have been forced to accept a cut in spending of 8 per cent in the wake of the ending of the Cold War, according to figures published yesterday for the first time by the Prime Minister.

The budget for MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, the government listening post, is due to fall to pounds 881m in 1994-95 over the spending total this year. It will fall further by 5 per cent in 1996-97.

The cuts comes in spite of the large increase in costs for the building of the new headquarters for MI5, the Security Services at Thames House, on the north bank of the Thames near Lambeth Bridge, amounting to pounds 245.3m in 1994-95 and MI6, the Intelligence Services, on the south bank, costing pounds 83.7m.

The cuts have been forced on the intelligence and security services as the 'spies' retrench after the ending of the Cold War. Sir Colin McColl, then head of MI6, said last year: 'We are having a difficult time . . .'

Sir Colin clearly warned of the dangers of cutting too deeply into MI6. 'We have been a wavy curve in terms of manpower. We were quite severely cut in the 1970s. After the Falklands War, when we were quite clearly seen to be too thin, not just there but in other areas as well, we increased our numbers during the 1980s and we are now on a declining path,' he said.

Staffing figures, also given yesterday for the first time under John Major's drive to more open government, show that MI6 will go down from 2,303 to 2,251 between 1994 and 1995; MI5 will fall from 2,235 to 2,189; and GCHQ will fall from 6,228 to 6,076.

However, the global sums are still sufficiently large to allow 'C', as the head of MI6 is still known, to employ freelance agents, and allow the present-day James Bond a few luxuries. It is unlikely Bond will be on the dole.