THE NEW YEAR HONOURS: Tory backers are rewarded

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The Independent Online

Some of the Conservative Party's most committed benefactors are handsomely rewarded by John Major in today's list.

In common with Graham Kirkham, the DFS furniture chain chief, lambasted by Labour yesterday as an alleged beneficiary of "honours for services", there was a knighthood for Stanley Kalms, the Dixons Group chairman - another staunch Tory supporter and donor - and a CBE for Andrew Lansley, formerly director of research at Central Office.

A knighthood goes to Paul Judge, former director-general of Central Office - just a month after he was ousted during an organisational shake-up.

For the former Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, there is the more prestigious Companion of Honour in recognition of lengthy ministerial service.

The Prime Minister also appears to have given due credit to fidelity in the lower ranks, picking out the former Euro-rebel Michael Spicer, MP for South Worcestershire, for one of this year's three back-bench knighthoods. Jim Lester, MP for Broxtowe, and Colin Shepherd, MP for Hereford, are similarly honoured, along with James Molyneaux, the former Ulster Unionist leader.

The process of conferring the knighthoods would have begun before it was announced that the multi-millionaire Mr Judge, 46, was leaving Central Office, and before Mr Spicer failed to turn up on time for the Government's ill-fated Commons vote on the Common Fisheries Policy earlier this month.

But for the MP who helped precipitate the humiliating defeat, the ultimate parliamentarian's reward (short of an eventual peerage) comes in recognition of his willingness to influence Tory European policy from the inside rather than through Commons rebellions. Although Mr Spicer was one of the ringleaders of the Maastricht revolt, he adopted new tactics of persuasion and helped bring eight formerly "whipless" rebels back into the party fold.

Mr Lansley, who has been selected for the new and safe seat of Cambridgeshire South, will be one of the few parliamentarians to get a gong before beginning his Commons career. The awards are among 56 made by Mr Major for political services - mostly to Tory supporters but including a handful of Liberal Democrat nominations. The ex-Labour MP turned SDP defector Dick Taverne, who becomes a life peer, is one such.

Others receiving honours include David Heathcoat-Amory, the Paymaster General, Michael Ancram, Minister of State for Northern Ireland, and Sir Marcus Fox, chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of back-bench Tory MPs. They become Privy Councillors.