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Commons 'spy' raises security concerns.

Summary: MPs have questioned parliamentary security following revelations that a suspected Russian spy worked undetected in the House of Commons.

MPs have questioned parliamentary security following revelations that a suspected Russian spy worked undetected in the House of Commons.

Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock has stood by his assistant Katia Zatuliveter insisting she had "nothing to hide" as she faced deportation for allegedly being a spy.

Mr Hancock challenged the security services to produce evidence against Ms Zatuliveter, who was arrested on Thursday morning and is currently being held at an immigration detention centre.

MPs have insisted there is a review of Commons security if system breeches are discovered.

Twenty-five-year-old Katia came to the UK three years ago to study a masters degree at Bradford University. She originates from Dagestan and was forced to flee her home as a child during the Chechnyan conflict in the mid-1990s.

Ms Zatuliveter held a House of Commons pass and underwent security vetting before taking up her position as a full-time assistant two-and-a-half years ago.

Mr Hancock, a member of the Defence Select Committee, also represents Portsmouth South, which is the historical home of the Royal Navy.

If it is confirmed Ms Zatuliveter is a Russian spy and she is deported, it will be the first case since the Cold War of a Russian agent being removed from the Houses of Parliament.

Shadow foreign secretary Yvette Cooper said: "There are parliamentary security checks on anyone who applies for a House of Commons pass, anybody who is going to work in the House of Commons. Of course it is important to make sure that these are strong enough and secure enough."

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: "I have never seen or met her and the trouble is I would say normally this would be a joke but actually after what's been going on with some of the spies that Russia seems to have put into all sorts of places, you have to take it quite seriously really I suppose."

Labour backbencher Paul Flynn defended Ms Zatuliveter, saying: "All the conversations I have had with her have been about parliamentary business and gossip - not what I would expect from a Mata Hari. That name is a reminder of a woman who was falsely accused."

A spokesman for the Russian embassy said it had not been notified by the British authorities about Ms Zatuliveter's detention.

Asked about suggestions that Ms Zatuliveter was being expelled in revenge for Russia's victory in the bid to host the 2018 World Cup, a Downing Street spokeswoman said: "That's a bit far-fetched."

Independent Television News Limited 2010. All rights reserved.

Independent Television News Limited 2009. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Independent Television News Limited (ITN)
Geographic Code:4EXRU
Date:Dec 6, 2010
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