Britain is to boost its number of spies “substantially” over the next five years, George Osborne has revealed.
The expansion of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ is to counter the spiralling threat from extremists and cyber attacks over the internet.
Treasury sources said the spy agencies will see their ranks boosted by an extra 1,000 officers, analysts and support staff.
Announcing the move yesterday, the Chancellor said it had already been agreed with intelligence chiefs.
It makes the spy services one of the biggest winners in the government’s Whitehall-wide spending review in two weeks time, which will see most ministries hit by a bitter new round of cuts.
Mr Osborne said today: “As the nature of war, espionage and terrorism changes, we must change with it.
“The internet – central to modern life – provides new ways for our enemies to plan and act against us.
“Over the next five years we will substantially increase the number of people across all three secret intelligence agencies who investigate, analyse and help disrupt terrorist plots.”
Cheltenham based eavesdroppers GCHQ currently has 6,000 employees, MI5 has 4000 and MI6 has 3,200 – a tiny workforce compared to their giant US counterparts the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency.
The numbers boost will take their total number to close to 15,000.
But it only comes after Mr Osborne slashed the intelligence services’ joint budget by a total of 11% after his first spending review five years ago.
Mr Osborne also revealed that the three Cabinet ministers that have already wrapped up their cuts settlement with him will join a special star chamber to grill others who haven’t next week.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, Environment Secretary Liz Truss and Communities Secretary Greg Clark have all agreed to eye watering budget squeezes of 32% each by 2020.
The Chancellor added: “If you don’t have control over the country’s budget you can’t make the necessary long-term investment in your country’s defences.
“It is only when you control spending, and live within your means, that you can build a country with security and opportunity at its heart.