1 Introduction |
1. The award of an honour is intended to recognise
exceptional service to the nation and/or exceptional achievement.
In our inquiry we considered why honours are awarded, and the
purpose of the system. We took evidence on the levels of public
support for, and trust in, the honours system, and considered
proposals for reform to increase public understanding and trust.
2. Our inquiry took place in the light of a number
of developments in the honours system in recent months.
a) In October 2011 the Prime Minister announced
the reintroduction of the British Empire Medal (BEM), to reward
"local volunteers who make a real difference to their communities".
The award of the BEM had been discontinued by the then Prime Minister,
Sir John Major, in 1993. Sir John said that the distinction between
the award of the next higher honour, the Member of the British
Empire (MBE) and a BEM had become "increasingly tenuous [and
could] no longer be sustained".
b) The 2012 New Year Honours List was accompanied
by adverse publicity surrounding the award of honours to people
who had also made donations to political parties.
c) In March 2012 the Prime Minister announced
the establishment of a new Honours Committee to consider candidates
for honours among MPs, representatives of the devolved Governments,
and Parliamentary staff.
d) The most recent prominent development was
the recommendation, in January 2012, of the Honours Forfeiture
Committee to "cancel and annul" the knighthood awarded
in 2004 to Fred Goodwin, the former Chief Executive of the Royal
Bank of Scotland.
3. This Report builds on the work of our predecessor
committee, the Public Administration Select Committee in the 2001-2005
Parliament, which recommended radical reform of the honours system
in its Fifth Report of the 2003-04 Session, A Matter Of Honour:
Reforming the Honours System.
In its response, the Government at the time rejected the majority
of the Committee's recommendations, but did commit to some more
moderate changes to open up the way that the honours committees
4. After a review of the honours system by Sir
Hayden Phillips in 2004, the Government subsequently agreed to
report tri-annually to Parliament on the working of the system.
We received the most recent tri-annual report in December 2011.
5. This inquiry did not consider the honours
which are in the personal gift of the Sovereign, the award of
military medals or gallantry awards or the award of peerages.
6. Over the course of this inquiry we received
forty one memoranda; the vast majority of which was received from
Lords Lieutenant, the Queen's representatives in the counties.
We also held three evidence sessions, where we heard from commentators
on the honours system, Lords Lieutenant, the Head of the Civil
Service, Sir Bob Kerslake, and the Chairs of three of the honours
committees. We would like to thank all those who contributed to
1 Cabinet Office, Government re-introduces the British
Empire Medal, 29 October 2011, www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk Back
HC Deb, 4 March 1993, col 454 Back
"Four Tory donors in honours row", The Sunday Times,
1 January 2012, p 1 Back
Ev 59 Back
The then Prime Minister, Sir John Major, set out the provision
for the Queen to "cancel and annul" appointment and
awards in "most orders of knighthood" in a written answer
(HC Deb, 2 December 1994 , col 923W) Back
Public Administration Select Committee, Fifth Report of Session
2003-04, A Matter Of Honour: Reforming the Honours System,
HC 212-I Back
Cabinet Office, Reform of the Honours System, Cm 6479,
February 2005 Back