Spooks expenses: We've been inspecting you, Mr Bond

Even the secret service has been rocked by the MPs' scandal. Under new rules, frontline agents have to account for every (Money)penny

It is difficult to imagine James Bond asking for a receipt for his martini, but in the new mood of austerity and squeamishness about expenses, Whitehall bean counters are recording for the first time the cash spent by Britain's spies on the frontline.

Accounts for the Cabinet Office, which covers MI5, MI6 and the GCHQ listening agency, reveal that £40m was paid last year in extra administration costs, on top of £53m in salaries, for the intelligence services.

In previous years, only salaries were recorded in the official accounts. The move has been dubbed, all too predictably, a "licence to bill".

Government sources admitted the extra money was because of a "reclassification" in how people on the frontline are paid – meaning funds for expenses and paying sources now go through the bureaucracy of Whitehall. Until now, frontline officers have received monthly cash handouts of several thousand pounds to cover expenses and other costs.

While it is unlikely that any spy would have to provide receipts for money paid to sources, insiders said the move showed how the cash would be monitored more tightly. It is unclear whether the change was on the orders of Sir Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary and head of the civil service, or Alex Allan, the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee.

Conservative chairman of the Commons counter-terrorism committee Patrick Mercer, who served as an intelligence officer in the Army, said: "When I was handling sources I was given quite a large sum of money known as a slush fund with which I paid informants. I never had to account for that.

"This sounds like tightening up on that sort of thing and I guess quite rightly so. It is fascinating that they are going through this for the first time. When I did it, it was very informal, literally stuffing notes into people's pockets. It might make things a bit more bureaucratic out on the frontline."

A Whitehall source said: "There has been a reclassification of how some people on the frontline are paid."

The Cabinet Office refused to comment on matters relating to intelligence agencies.

The change is revealed in the Cabinet Office's annual report, published last week. It also reveals that all staff in the department – including intelligence officers – have been told to recycle spectacles and keys under new sustainability rules. The report says: "These include... introducing a 'binless office' and expanding the range of materials we recycle to include plastic bags, CDs, batteries, spectacles, books, stamps, mobile phones and keys."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine