Monday, 19 January, 2009

Cambridge spies controversy set to be re-opened with Blunt memoir

By Jon Swaine

The autobiography of Blunt, the "Fourth Man" in the Cambridge Soviet spy ring, could be embarrassing for the children of Establishment figures whose secrets have never been disclosed, according to those who have read it.

Blunt, once an art adviser to the Queen, died in 1983. The only manuscript of his memoir was locked in the British Library the following year and given a 25-year embargo by his estate in order to prevent further trouble.

With that soon to be lifted, it is thought a published version could be available within months. It has been speculated that the identities of Whitehall and security service staff who assisted the ring could be disclosed.

Blunt, a former MI5 officer, confessed to the Government in 1964 that he had been a double agent, passing secrets to the Soviet Union from 1934.

He had been instrumental in the recruitment of Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, fellow spies who defected to the USSR in 1951. Kim Philby, another member of the "Cambridge spies", defected in 1963.

However, Blunt secured immunity from prosecution under a secret deal and his identity was not exposed for another 15 years, when Margaret Thatcher, then the Prime Minister, named him as a spy in a written answer to the House of Commons. He was stripped of his knighthood.

It has long been thought a senior British intelligence figure asked Blunt to facilitate Burgess's and Maclean's escapes from Britain, and that his identity lies in the memoir.

The book, which Blunt worked on from the time of his exposure to his death, is also said to contain a forthright account on what motivated him to betray his country for some 30 years.

It is not known whether it will contain thoughts on Mrs Thatcher, who defied the advice of senior spies in order to name Blunt.

The type-written manuscript was handed to the British Library by John Golding, the art historian, who was a friend of Blunt and the executor of his will.

Mr Golding told The Daily Telegraph: "There's nothing in there that could embarrass anyone alive today. But some of the descendants of those who feature may be quite upset by it."

He added that he had been offered "huge amounts of money" to hand over the rights to the book when news of its existence was confirmed in 2001. Refusing to comment further on its contents, he said: "You'll have to see for yourself."


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