Spies told to get on the trail of better value

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Britain's intelligence services, under pressure to prove their worth in the cost-conscious post-Cold War era, should hire outside consultants and spy more on economic targets, intelligence observers said yesterday.

But Britain could not retain its high diplomatic profile if it stopped spying operations and relied instead on commercially gathered and publicly available information.

"Real comparative advantage remains with those nations whose knowledge base outstrips that of the competition," Professor Peter Hennessy told the Royal Institute of International Affairs, on the day the Act allowing MI5 to fight organised crime took effect.

Peter Hennessy, page 19