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As previously discussed on this blog, there are a number of debilitations that can arise from indebtedness, not least the potential loss of a seat in the legislature, or damage to the family name. An unnamed source has now drawn my attention to the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS - MI6) and their recruitment rules in relation to debt. Their website notes that:
"Are there any other issues which may affect my application?
Yes. We cannot accept applications from anybody who is currently being treated for an addiction (alcohol, gambling, etc) or has received such treatment in the last 12 months; has ever suffered from manic depression or schizophrenia; is currently bankrupt or the subject of an Individual Voluntary Agreement (IVA)."
We will leave to one side issues regarding potential analogies relating bankrupts with schizophrenics and drug or gambling addicts. This is perhaps for a future post on stigma. The preclusion on prospective spooks being subject to personal insolvency procedures is perhaps similar in terms of rationale to the legislative issue cited above, i.e. people who cannot manage their fiscal affairs are not capable of passing laws, or are incapable of spying for their country.
If this is indeed the rationale, it does not take account of the honest but unfortunate debtor, or the failed entrepreneur who the legislature have done so much to encourage in recent years, particularly in relation to discharge reduction. It does however take account of the sensitive nature of the work undertaken by SIS and the potential for its employees (current and prospective) to be subject to financial pressures. As Professor Christopher Andrew's excellent recent book (Andrew, C. The Defence of the Realm. Allen Lane, London, 2009 - for a critical review (and references to positive reviews) see the Literary Review - "Spook in the Wheel" in Private Eye, no.1248, 30 October-12 November 2009, at page 26) shows, SIS's sister organisation, the Security Service (MI5) has had its fair share of bribery based treachery over the years. The Cambridge Five (Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, Kim Philby, Anthony Blunt and John Cairncross) and Melita Norwood, and the like, may have been motivated by ideology, but a number of Government employees (not necesarilly employed by SIS or MI5) have betrayed their country for cold hard cash.
Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle's brilliant "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans", which relates to some missing top secret submarine plans, discusses an issue which is sadly not reserved to fiction, i.e. espionage for money. A recent example of this type of behaviour can be seen in the alleged conduct of the Territorial Army translator, Corporal Daniel James. A fiscally embarassed recruit to SIS or MI5 might be more susceptible to monetary approaches. This raises an important question - can discharged bankrupts apply? These are not issues that would bother Mr Bond. He would simply win all he needs from the gambling tables of Montenegro. He would not however be able to be Mr Bond, the spy anyway, as, if he had disclosed his penchant for gambling, he would not have been recruited! I will have an olive with my vodka martini please...
"This is the ultimate statement of where the law on IVAs is to be found in our great common law...