London, Feb.2 : The chief of Britain's intelligence outfit MI-6, has warned that a generation of ageing spies could undermine Britain's international fight against terrorism.
New Government rules increasing the civil service retirement age threatens to hamper his service's work around the world, the Telegraph quoted Sir John Scarlett, as saying in evidence to the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament.
To cope with an ageing population, ministers are increasing the age at which civil servants can claim a pension from 60 to 65. The change will affect MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service, and MI5, the Security Service.
In its latest report, committee members say they asked Sir John in a private evidence session about the possible effect of applying the new retirement age to his service, believed to have more than 2,000 staff.
"We were told that, should this change be implemented in SIS, it could pose problems in terms of overseas deployment of staff and effective intelligence gathering," the committee said.
Both MI6 and MI5 have rules that allow certain specialist staff to stay on past the normal retirement age, where service chiefs believe they have unique knowledge and skills.
But those rules are believed to apply only to desk-bound workers, and not to front-line intelligence officers posted around the world, who are required to be physically fit.
Before being deployed overseas, newly recruited SIS officers undergo basic training at a naval fort near Portsmouth.
In an earlier report, the Intelligence and Security Committee warned that some of the agencies' staff simply cannot work in the same way as they get older.
Keeping such people on staff but unable to carry out their previous roles could place financial burdens on the intelligence agencies, the committee fears.
Such matters should now be given a greater priority, the committee says.
Sir John himself is due to turn 60 in August and may step down later this year. His MI5 counterpart, Jonathan Evans, is 50.