Pierce Brosnan, James Bond
Actor Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in "Tomorrow Never Dies."

Foreign Secretary William Hague defended Wednesday the role of the British intelligent operations praising the "incredible abilities" of agents and intelligent officers that work for the secret services at MI5 and MI6.

Hague said they were people "of incredible expertise" and a "vital assets to the British government" as a whole.

As Hague went into detail of recent activities, fans of the super spy, James Bond, may have been familiar with stories of incredible acts of bravery undertaken by the secret agents.

"I see daily evidence of the integrity, skill and professionalism of the men and women of GCHQ and SIS. Because I work so closely with them, I know that their values are the finest values of the UK," he said. "Without our agencies, terrorist groups would have free rein to harm UK citizens here and abroad."

Hague spoke of recent missions in Libya where "British intelligence saved lives" and also spoke of the continuing work in other unstable regions of the world including Iran where agents relaying vital information on the nuclear programme in that part of the world.

He added: "They have the capabilities to find out things that are beyond the reach of everyday diplomacy, filling in some of the blanks in our understanding of other countries and governments."

Torture rumours

The unprecedented step of talking to the press about secret missions undertaken by the services, came about with Hague wanting to quash claims that agents and intelligent officers had been involved in the rendition and torture.

"Intelligence throws up some of the most difficult ethical and legal questions that I encounter as foreign secretary, and that my predecessors in this position also have had to grapple with," he said.

"Some of them relate to the proper use of intelligence in reaching and justifying decisions in foreign policy - the most controversial instance of this, the Iraq War, is currently the subject of an Inquiry.

"But we also saw allegations of UK complicity in extraordinary rendition leading to torture. The very making of these allegations undermined Britain's standing in the world as a country that upholds international law and abhors torture. "