MI6: Secret Intelligence Service
Vauxhall Cross MI6 HQ
MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service, came into being in 1911 to undertake espionage activities overseas. Today its role is defined by the Intelligence Services Act 1994 as »to obtain and provide information relating to the actions or intentions of persons outside the British Islands, and perform other tasks relating to these in relation to the interests of national security«.
The SIS is located at Vauxhall Cross in London, and its chief since September 1994 has been David Spedding, who previously specialised in the Middle East. MI6 employed 2,303 staff in March 1994, and has been reported to have an annual budget of £150M, although these numbers can be expected to decrease with the end of the cold war.
The focus of MI6's activities has been the Russian threat, but this has now been cut back significantly, and its operational effort in the CIS has been reduced by two-thirds. It has been reported that the Russian intelligence services have been renewing their efforts to post officers to London, and in May 1996 tit-for-tat expulsions of four embassy staff each took place.