This page answers some of the most common questions that the
Secret Intelligence Service is asked.
If your question relates to working for the Service, please
refer to the Careers pages.
About the work of the Service
1. Who does SIS collect
SIS is tasked by the British Government to collect intelligence
world-wide in support of its security, defence, foreign and
economic policies. SIS does not itself decide on the intelligence
requirements placed on the Service. These requirements are
regularly reviewed by Government and are classified.
Intelligence Services Act 1994 directs SIS to obtain and
provide information relating to the acts and intentions of persons
- In the fields of national security with particular reference to
the Government's defence and foreign policies;
- In the interests of the economic well-being of the UK; and
- In support of the prevention of detection of serious
The Intelligence Services Act 1994 likewise directs SIS to
perform other tasks, enabling the Service to conduct covert
operations and to act clandestinely overseas in support of British
2. How can I offer intelligence to
If you believe that you have intelligence of importance to SIS
or the British Government, you can contact us via our Contact us
If you have information about immediate threats to the UK, its
people or property please pass this immediately to the Security
Service. If you are in the UK, you may also contact the Police
on 999 or the Police Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321.
3. What is the difference between
MI6 and MI5?
SIS (also known as MI6) is primarily responsible for gathering
intelligence outside the UK in support of the Government's
security, defence, foreign and economic policies. It is based at
Vauxhall Cross in London under its Chief, Sir John Sawers.
The Security Service (also known as MI5), is the
UK's security intelligence Agency responsible for protecting the
UK, its citizens and interests, at home and overseas, against the
major threats to government security. It is based at Thames House
in London under its Director General Jonathan Evans.
4. How does SIS fit into the
machinery of government?
SIS comes under the authority of the Foreign Secretary and its
chief Sir John Sawers reports to him. The National Security
Council, chaired by the Prime Minster, oversees all aspects of
Britain's security including the work of the intelligence and
5. Does SIS have powers of
No. As an intelligence agency SIS has no powers of arrest. It
works in support of law enforcement agencies but does not have law
6. How can I become a member of
Please read the Careers section. SIS recruits high-calibre,
motivated and dynamic staff to perform operational, technical and
administrative functions in the UK and abroad.
7. How much does SIS cost the
SIS the Security Service and GCHQ are funded through a single
budget called the Single Intelligence Account (SIA). The SIA for
the financial year 2010/2011 is around £2.3 billion. Like any other
public authority, SIS is subject to stringent financial controls and
8. Does SIS produce an annual
The Chief of SIS produces and annual report for the Foreign
Secretary and the Prime Minister. Its contents are classified.
However, the Intelligence and Security Committee and two
independent Commissioners publish some information about the work
of SIS in their annual reports to the Prime Minister.
9. What does SIS not comment on
SIS is a secret service. In order to protect its staff, its
agents and the intelligence it collects SIS does not comment on its
About our History
1. Where does the title MI6 come
In the late 1930s MI6 was adopted as a flag of convenience for
SIS. It was used extensively during WWII. Although the title fell
into official disuse it remains in common use outside SIS. See SIS or MI6? page
for further details.
2. Why is the head of SIS know as
The first Chief of SIS, Captain Sir Mansfield Smith Cumming RN,
signed himself with a 'C' (as the initial letter of his surname) -
in green ink. In his honour all his successors have done the
3. A relative or friend used to
work for SIS or SOE. Can I obtain details of their work?
SOE personal files were released to The National Archive in March
2003 amongst the final papers in a ten year release of the SOE
It is SIS policy not to comment of the identities of former staff
1. Can members of the public visit
For security reasons, SIS does not offer public tours of
Vauxhall Cross. However, you can find out more information about
the building on our SIS HQ page.
2. Would the chief of SIS speak at
The Chief is unable to accept invitations to speak at private
functions and events.
3. How can I complain?
The Investigatory Powers Tribunal exists to investigate
complaints about conduct by various public bodies, in relation to
you, your property or communications. This independent Tribunal
considers complaints relating to the activities covered by the
Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, and also hears
proceedings brought under the Human Rights Act 1998.
Details on how to contact the IPT can be found on their website