26/04/2012 12:14 BST | Updated 26/04/2012 12:25 BST

Neil Heywood Death: Businessman Was 'Not A Spy' Hague Says

Neil Heywood, the British man whose death is being probed in China, was not a spy, William Hague has insisted.

Although the government never confirms or denies if people are spies, following press reports that Heywood was an MI6 agent the foreign secretary said Heywood "was not an employee of the British government in any capacity," in a letter to the foreign affairs select committee.

However this does not rule out the possibility Heywood worked for MI6 on an ad hoc basis.

Hague also said he was not informed of "rumours" that Heywood may have been murdered because foreign office officials in China thought they were "uncorroborated."

However he said he asked the Chinese authorities to investigate in February after increasing evidence emerged which suggested he may have been killed.

Earlier this month Hague was asked to clarify Heywood ever worked as a spy in a letter from committee chairman Richard Ottaway.

The Foreign Affairs Select Committee asked Hague why ministers were not immediately informed about rumours that surfaced in January that there were suspicious circumstances surrounding his death.

State media reports in China have suggested that investigations by authorities there indicate Heywood, 41, was a victim of homicide.

He was a friend of the family of Bo Xilai, a former rising star in Chinese politics who served as local party chief in Chongqing but was suspended from the Politburo in April amid allegations of "serious discipline violations".

Heywood died in the city of Chongqing last November, and Chinese authorities initially said it was down to alcohol overconsumption.