Tory MP threatens Labour KGB `spies'

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Five Labour politicians have been given 24 hours by a Tory MP to halt a threat by him to name them in the Commons for alleged links with the KGB.

Rupert Allason, a Tory backbencher and author of books on espionage, said last night that he would go ahead and name the five - who include some still on Labour's backbenches.

Mr Allason, MP for Torbay who writes his books under the name of Nigel West, said that the five had been named in writing by a United States Secret Intelligence Officer as "confidential contacts'' of the former Soviet embassy in London. Mr Allason challenged each of them by letter to provide an explanation of their involvement.

He confirmed that he would name them tomorrow if they failed to provide adequate replies today.

They will be named under the cloak of parliamentary privilege on the Commons order paper by Mr Allason, either in questions to ministers or in a Commons motion.

"All that I can say is that an SIS officer has suggested that a defector described these five individuals as confidential contacts with the Russian embassy. That is why I have written to them to ask them what was the nature of their relationship,'' he said.

Mr Allason is likely to be criticised by Labour for using parliamentary privilege to make the allegations against the MPs. It will be seen as an attempt to revive the furore over the disclosure of KGB links with Richard Gott, the former foreign editor ofthe Guardian newpaper.

But Mr Allason defended his decision to name the MPs. He said that he believed the names were disclosed to the SIS by Oleg Gordievsky, the former head of the KGB's London section, after he defected to the West.

"My suspicion is they are from Gordievsky. It comes from an SIS officer and this is in writing. The provenance of this material goes back quite a few months and I have seen correspondence that is been passed between this particular individual relating todisclosure. He has not named the KGB defector but I think it is Gordievsky,'' Mr Allason said.

The Soviet Embassy targeted politicians, journalists and trade union contacts for information. Although the contacts may have been used to obtain low-grade information, the Soviets were able to use Westminster gossip to build up profiles of ministers andkey politicians to inform Kremlin strategists about political trends inside the Government and, possibly, to compromise ministers.

The demands for information were intensified in the mid-Eighties when KGB officers, who were subsequently expelled from Britain, were ordered to find out more about the US Stars Wars system.

Although many in the West regarded President Ronald Regan's Star Wars system as a science fantasy, Soviet intelligence officers in London took the threat seriously. The belief within the KGB that the Soviet Union would lose the arms race with the US may have contributed to the collapse of Communism.

Mr Allason said that all five of those whom he intended to name were Labour MPs when they were regarded by British intelligence as "confidential contacts''. The Commons select committee on the intelligence services, chaired by Tom King, the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, is expected to seek the names on the Gordievsky list this month when it begins its work.

MPs on the committee will also want to know how far Members of Parliament under suspicion were kept under surveillance by British secret and intelligence services, including through the use of telephone taps.