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Friday, 30 March, 2001, 02:31 GMT 03:31 UK
Spending on spies 'out of control'
MI6
Spending by the intelligence service has been criticised before
Spending on the intelligence service has doubled since the height of the Cold War and is expected to hit 859m in 2003, it has been reported.

Taxpayers are spending more on British spies since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Communist Eastern Block, according to The Economist.

The single intelligence vote, presented annually for Parliament, is projected to rise in real terms from 703m in 1998 to 859m in 2003, it said.

But the former deputy head of MI6, Sir Gerald Warner, believes the total cost the UK's intelligence gathering is 2.5bn, when all military intelligence and satellite surveillance is included.

Criticism

The basic costs cover the Security Service (MI5), which deals mainly with domestic issues, the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) which mainly operates overseas, and the government's communication headquarters at Cheltenham.

With the end of the Cold War intelligence is now largely directed at combating terrorism, organised crime, drugs and money laundering.

David Bickford, a former legal advisor to the security services, believes that costs are out of control and that the three services should be merged.

He said there was a "triplication of management, triplication of bureaucracy and triplication of turf battles".

The spending by the intelligence service has been criticised in the past.

Overspending

Last year details of a massive overspend the UK's spy headquarters on the banks of the River Thames at Vauxhall Cross in London were published.

The publication of two highly critical secret reports revealed how spending on the headquarters buildings of the MI5 and MI6 spymasters overran by almost 226m.

The reports, by the National Audit Office spending watchdog, highlighted how the cost of the headquarters escalated from an initial estimate of 22m to an eventual bill of 81m.

And it also reported on the overspend on the refurbishment of nearby Thames House for MI5, which rose from a provisional estimate of 60m to 227m.

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