Memorandum by Mr John Lidstone (HON 24)
THE HONOURS SYSTEM: SOME KEY ISSUES AND QUESTIONS
I wish to table the following comments and questions
arising from the PASC's Draft titled above.
1. IT HAS
PASC CANNOT REOPEN
Much of the current unease about the way the
honours system operates arises precisely because of the controversial
honours that have been given to a large number of men and women;
for example: peerages given to MPs to vacate their seats so that
the governing party can ease into the House of Commons another
of its chosen loyalists in their stead; huge sums of money given
to the two main political parties in particular, by rich business
men and women following which those same individual have been
given honours of varying dimensionssee my lecture, "The
Reform of the Honours System". Francis Pym, now a peer, quoted
to the Neil Committee on Standards in Public Life: ". . .
that a person had to put money where their mouth is to be considered
for an honour".
Ql Why cannot questions about individual awards
and honours be asked and cases be examined to reveal or expose
why they were given?
2. THE HONOURS
Honours arising from recommendations by the
Diplomatic list, the Civil Service list, Defence Services list,
the Prime Minister's list, being a large percentage of each half-yearly
honours list, appear to go with the job. No explanations are given
for these awards, leaving the indelible impression that they are
"buggins turn next" honours that go with the job. Indeed
one Major-General told me last week that if he had not got the
requisite CB, fellow officers would automatically have assumed
that there must be black mark against his name!
Q2.l Why should such honours continue to be
The individuals who receive excellent salaries,
employment for life, pensions that are envy of people in other
walks of life; and are then honoured for doing the job for which
they are employed. No one asks them, still less forces them, to
do the jobs they do.
The deliberations of Recommending Committees
being confidential, there is no means by which the justice, fairness
or otherwise of such honours can be seen, still less be understood
by the general public. Such secrecy only fules the suspicion that
there is something underhand about it all.
Q2.2 Why are recommendations and the reasons
for honours kept secret?
Q2.3 Why is the criteria
upon which honours are given not published so that the general
public can understand the basis upon which individual awards are
Q2.4 What are the criteria used for assessing
recommendations made by the general public by means of Nominations
for a UK National Honour and those made by Recommending Committees?
Q2.5 If, the criteria
Q2.6 Is there not a conflict of interest,
when All three present members of the Honours Scrutiny Committee,
Thomson, Dean and Hurd have been given honours that went with
or followed their jobs? How can they bring a disinterested approach
to the task of scrutinising honours recommendations? Should there
not be independent members of this committee, objective and unfettered
by honours or in thrall to them?
Bearing in mind the disgrace brought upon this
Order by the sales of it made on the orders of Lloyd George by
his honours broker Maundy Gregory and the fact that it refers
to an Empire that no longer exists, the PASC should examine most
urgently its continued existence. The following factors serve
to underline the need to make this Order defunct.
First, one of the four honours in the personal
gift of the Monarch, The Order of St Patrick, designated by the
letters KP, was hitherto given to selected Irish peers presumably
to keep them loyal to the Crown. None have been given since 1922
when the Irish Free State was officially proclaimed. The Order
has not been cancelled but is defunct?
Secondly, two orders of Knighthood, the Most
Exalted order of the Star of India, designated by the letters
KCSI and created in 1861, and the Imperial Order of the Crown
of India, designated by the letters KCIE and created in 1877;
no knights of either order have been appointed since India was
proclaimed independent and partitioned into India and Pakistan
in 1947. Obviously to appoint anyone to any of these three orders
of knighthood today would be absurd. If the absurdity of this
is accepted then:
Q3.l Why should the Most Excellent Order of
the British Empire continue to be awarded when there is no British
A Cabinet Minister argued the case when the
scandals about the present Honours system broke over the New Year,
that if a person received a lower order, say the MBE, then it
would take some years to pass before he or she could be considered
for a higher grade in the same order. The absurdity of this argument
was made plain a day or so later when, Johnny Wilkinson, received
an MBE for being able to kick a rugby ball accurately more often
than not, then was given the OBE in the 2004 New Year's Honours
Q3.2 Why are there gradations for this and
every other Order awarded?
4. OTHER RELEVANT
Q4.1 Why do certain senior people in the Armed
Forces, and the Civil Service receive at least three honours on
their progress through the bureaucratic systems in which they
Examples of this extraordinary preferment, the
Chief of the Armed Forces gets a GCB, KCB, then topped off with
a Life Peerage, Bramall, Harding (he missed out on a peerage for
the Lady Buck incident at the Dorchester), Armstrong, Butler,
Q4.2 Why do are some people, no more worthy
than anyone else except in a number of cases the size of their
or their organisation's purse, be given the title of Lord, Lady,
Sir, Dame? The relevance of the last title to those luuvies of
the theatre and the pantomime is inescapable!
Q4.3 If this country
continues to award honours, then the argument I put forward for
there being only two reasons for giving them appears to be strengthened.
Why are there so many which only debase the system?
Q4.4 By awarding fewer honours, surely this
offers a means of giving for the first time, the Honours System
a respect for those who receive honours and for the nation?
Q4.5 The Honours handed
out on the Queen's official birthday and each New Year take their
place with too many other debased gongs given out in many areas
of our national and local life. Should not a revised Honours System
seek to reverse this tendency to award everyone a lead pencil?
John B J Lidstone