The board of a study centre at the London School of Economics with links to the Gaddafi regime in Libya includes no fewer than four men who have served at the highest levels of the British Intelligence community.

As well as Sir Mark Allen, former head of MI6’s Middle East desk, there are two ex-chairmen and one former member of the Joint Intelligence Committee – the top-secret Cabinet Office body which coordinates all national security assessment for ministers.

Gordon Barrass, visiting professor at the centre – known as LSE Ideas – was a member of the JIC in the last years of the Cold War and is a Soviet expert. Sir Colin Budd was chairman of the JIC in 1996-97. And between 2005 and 2007 Sir Richard Mottram was Cabinet Office permanent secretary for intelligence, security and resilience, and chairman of the JIC.

LSE Ideas is at the centre of a storm over the university’s decision to help Colonel Gaddafi seek international acceptance before the Libyan uprising and to accept enormous amounts of cash from his son Saif. Its chairman, formerly one of Tony Blair’s most senior political aides, sought yesterday to distance himself from the scandal.

Sir David Manning is the ex-ambassador to Washington who was Mr Blair’s confidant throughout the run-up to the Iraq war.

He claimed to have no more than a ‘very small association’ with the LSE, which controversially accepted a £1.5million donation from Saif a year after awarding him a questionable PhD. Asked if the LSE should have taken Saif’s cash, Sir David said: ‘It wasn’t a huge sum of money. It’s a pity probably it happened, but if you were trying to draw Libyans into the mainstream of international life then I suspect that was the motivation.’

Angry students are demanding a full-scale inquiry into the Libyan funding controversy which has heaped embarrassment on the LSE as more links emerge between the Ideas centre, the Blair government, security services and big business.

Formed three years ago, the Ideas centre had an income of just over £2.5million between 2008 and 2010, with 94 per cent coming from ‘external sources’. The LSE claims the centre – whose stated aim is ‘understanding how today’s world came into being and how it may be changed’ – has received no money from Libya.

Aside from Sir David, the Ideas advisory board members include Mr Blair’s ex-chief of staff Jonathan Powell, former Foreign Office Minister Baroness Symons – forced to stand down from Libya’s National Economic Development Board this week – and Sir Mark Allen, a former MI6 spy who played a pivotal role in bringing Blair and Colonel Gaddafi together and lobbied ministers to secure the release of the Lockerbie bomber.