THE QUEEN'S BIRTHDAY HONOURS : Blair's inner cabinet enter Privy Council

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The Independent Online
Clear evidence that Gordon Brown, Robin Cook and Donald Dewar would all be members of a Tony Blair-led "inner cabinet" is provided by their being named Privy Councillors in the Queen's Birthday Honours today.

The nominations by Mr Blair confirm that Mr Dewar, Labour's Chief Whip, is now a key figure, and that, together with John Prescott, Mr Blair's deputy, who is already a Privy Councillor, the three will form the ministerial "A-team" if Labour wins the election.

Mr Brown, Mr Cook and Mr Dewar were the Labour leader's choice after he was asked to make three nominations. Two other Labour honours - Don Dixon, former deputy chief whip, becomes a Privy Councillor and there is a knighthood for Ray Powell - were proposed by Commons figures across the political spectrum.

Mr Powell, MP for Ogmore, enjoyed controversial and almost legendary patronage and influence as both the Labour "pairing" whip and the chairman of the committee awarding Commons offices to MPs. He was severely reprimanded by John Smith, then Labour leader, for using his influence as a member of the standing committee of the shops Bill to campaign against Sunday opening.

Robert Hicks, the staunchly left-of-centre and pro-European Tory MP who was a whip under Edward Heath in 1973-74 but was never brought into the Government by Baroness Thatcher is one of three long- serving backbenchers who are awarded knighthoods; the other two are James Hill, MP for Southampton Test and Roger Sims, a former Parliamentary Private Secretary to Lord Whitelaw. David Curry, one of the brightest ministers of states, and at present responsible for housing and local government, is made a Privy Councillor, while Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith, a vice- chairman of the 1922 committee and a Major loyalist is also made a Privy Councillor.

Elsewhere, perhaps one of the most eye-catching honours is for Judge Stephen Tumim, the former Chief Inspector of Prisons and long a thorn in the Home Office's side who is given a knighthood.

The honours were announced as Whitehall sources suggested that with 9,000 letters a year now coming in from the public under the system inaugurated by John Major, the current level of 40 per cent of honours resulting from public nominations was probably now "about right".

Meanwhile, two prominent industrialists who head companies which have made large donations to the Conservative Party are honoured. Nigel Rudd, chairman of Williams Holdings, is knighted for services to manufacturing industry. Mr Rudd has been a member of the Tory fund-raising city and industrial liaison council and Williams has given pounds 25,000 a year to the party since 1987 when it donated pounds 50,000. Brian Stewart, chief executive of Scottish and Newcastle, which gave the Tories pounds 50,000 in the financial year ending in April 1995, is appointed CBE.

The life peers are Dame June Lloyd, Nuffield Professor of Child Health, Marmaduke Hussey, former chairman of the BBC board of governors, and Field Marshal Sir Richard Vincent, formerly chairman of the Military Committee of Nato.

Among members of the military honoured are Lieutenant General Alex Harley, an artillery officer who played a key role in directing British operations in Bosnia during the crucial period last autumn when British forces switched from "peace-keeping" to "peace enforcement". He gets a knighthood.