Page last updated at 11:24 GMT, Friday, 4 July 2008 12:24 UK

Profile: Spy chief Alex Allan

Alex Allan with Tony Blair
Alex Allan (left) was made 'e-envoy' for the Tony Blair government

Alex Allan, who is seriously ill in hospital, is the colourful head of the UK's Joint Intelligence Committee.

As chairman of the committee, his role is to collate intelligence from MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, and brief ministers.

Mr Allan, 57, is a big fan of the 60s rock group the Grateful Dead, and in the 1980s windsurfed to work along the River Thames during a train strike.

He was appointed to the Joint Intelligence Committee despite having no background in the field.

Mr Allan runs a website for "Deadheads", fans of the Grateful Dead, which features a lyric and song search engine for work of the Californian rockers.

River travel

He windsurfed to work along the Thames wearing a bowler hat and suit and carrying a briefcase and umbrella.

He got a soaking though, when he lost his balance and fell in the water in sight of the Houses of Parliament.

Mr Allan was educated at Harrow and Clare College, Cambridge, and has a masters in statistics from University College, London.

He joined the civil service in 1973, first in Customs and Excise then with the Treasury.

Mr Allan was principal private secretary to prime ministers John Major and Tony Blair between 1992 and 1997.

His next role was British High Commissioner to Australia.

Web journals

In 1999, Mr Allan was made "e-envoy" for the Blair government. His job involved getting government services onto the internet.

He was well suited to the pioneering online role, as he had been posting "journals" on his website years before the term blog became a buzzword.

Mr Allan moved to live in Western Australia in 2001 before returning to the UK in 2004.

He became permanent secretary at the Department for Constitutional Affairs.

Illness

Mr Allan's wife, artist Katie Clemson, died from cancer in November last year.

In the same month he was appointed chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, which raised some eyebrows given his civil service background.

Mr Allan collapsed at his home earlier this week and is unconscious and seriously ill in a London hospital.

The Cabinet Office confirmed Mr Allan's condition. Government sources said there were no signs of foul play.


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