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Honours to be classless and based on merit

JOHN MAJOR modernised the honours system yesterday, emphasising awards would have to be earned on merit or through voluntary service. But he stopped short of abandoning political patronage, writes Patricia Wynn Davies.

The first significant changes for 70 years bring a more classless system from June, with the scrapping of the 'blue collar' British Empire Medal and Military Medal. People will be encouraged to submit nominations for awards.

'Automatic' honours by reason of rank or appointment in public and private sectors will cease. The Prime Minister also ruled out creating more hereditary peerages, but drew the line at halting knighthoods for long-serving backbench MPs.

John Smith, the Labour leader, said an honour should depend on exceptional achievement or service for the public's benefit.

Right to nominate, page 3

Leading article, page 20

Tony Benn, page 21