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Monday, September 13, 1999 Published at 08:37 GMT 09:37 UK


MI5 to be quizzed over spies

Jack Straw is said to be "furious" about being kept in the dark

Home Secretary Jack Straw is to meet the head of MI5 following a weekend of revelations about Cold War espionage in Britain.

The BBC's Peter Gould reports on Britain's biggest spy scandal in years
The emergency meeting comes amid growing concern that the intelligence service took no action against former Soviet spies after it was made aware of their existence.

The government is also bracing itself for more disclosures about further Cold War agents whose names are thought to figure in smuggled KGB files.

[ image: Norwood: Growing calls for her prosecution]
Norwood: Growing calls for her prosecution
Former MI5 officer David Shayler has also told BBC News Online that he knows the names of at least two more spies who have not been prosecuted.

And Tom King, head of the Parliamentary security and intelligence committee, said: "We are just beginning a great period of exposure."

Known to MI5

Melita Norwood, an 87-year-old great-grandmother from Bexleyheath in south London, was revealed at the weekend as one of the Cold War's longest-serving spies.

Anita Ferguson: "It came as a complete surprise to me"
Her daughter Anita Ferguson, 56, of Womborne, Staffordshire, told the BBC it had come as a complete surprise to her.

She said her mother should not be prosecuted, but added: "I do believe she should be investigated. She should be questioned by police."

The espionage expert and former Conservative MP Rupert Allason - who writes on security matters under the name Nigel West - says Mrs Ferguson's loyalty to her mother is commendable - but misplaced.

He said: "She's an old lady, but I personally take the view that war crimes and murders are crimes that, just for the benefit of deterrence should always be open to prosecution, however old the person is,"

[ image: MI5: Did officers tell ministers about the spies?]
MI5: Did officers tell ministers about the spies?
Former police officer John Symonds admitted being a "Romeo agent", who tried to get secrets by sleeping with women from foreign embassies. He worked for the KGB in the 1970s.

It appears that both had been known to the intelligence service for some time.

The two were revealed in the "Mitrokhin archive", several years' worth of KGB files smuggled to the UK by Russian dissident Vasili Mitrokhin and handed over to MI5 in 1992.

Shadow Home Secretary Ann Widdecombe called for their prosecution. "Many spies have been jailed for up to 40 years," she said. "It seems inexplicable that a handful of people are going to get away with it."

Did ministers know?

Secret Service chief Stephen Lander has spent the weekend preparing a full report on the matter for Mr Straw.

[ image: John Symonds:
John Symonds: "No interest" from authorities
It appears that the current government was not made aware of the spies' existence until recently.

The Home Office said that a decision not to prosecute would have been made not by the Home Secretary, but by the police and Crown Prosecution Service - and was probably taken because of the amount of time that had elapsed.

Cambridge Historian, Chris Andrew talks about hidden radio caches
Michael Howard, Home Secretary under the previous government from 1993 until May 1997, says he knew nothing of the contents of the Mitrokhin files.

But Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell said the Tories "must have known" about Mrs Norwood's existence in 1992.

"Why was she not prosecuted in 1992 when the Tories were in power and her existence was first brought to the attention of the security services?" he said.

Investigation on way

Tom King, former Conservative defence secretary and now head of the parliamentary security and intelligence commitee, is to launch an investigation into the matter.

[ image: Vasili Mitrokhin: More revelations to come?]
Vasili Mitrokhin: More revelations to come?
He suggested that no action may have been taken because there had been much more information in the files to investigate.

But he said that whoever had been Defence Secretary when the spies' existence first came to light "certainly should have been told".

The revelations came to light when a BBC team was researching the forthcoming documentary The Spying Game.

The Spying Game will be broadcast on BBC Two at 2000 BST on Sunday 19 September. It will include an exclusive interview with KGB defector, Vasili Mitrokhin.

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