Knighted – for services to high gas prices and Cadbury's demise?

Roger Carr, the tycoon who saw through the sale of the 200-year-old British company Cadbury to the US multinational Kraft in February, has been knighted for services to industry in today's New Year Honours list.

Sir Roger was praised by the City for getting a good deal for shareholders when the Cadbury sale went through in February. Since then Kraft has announced that it is moving the firm's headquarters to Switzerland to avoid UK tax, at a probable cost of thousands of UK jobs.

The award is doubly controversial because Sir Roger also chairs Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, which recently announced a 7 per cent price hike. Soon after that announcement, Centrica raised its full year profit forecast to more than £2.2bn. The regulator, Ofgem, is holding an inquiry into whether major energy companies are "lining their pockets".

His appearance on the New Year Honours list runs counter to the Downing Street spin that the 2011 list principally recognises those who have contributed to David Cameron's idea of the Big Society. Just under three-quarters of the 997 people on today's list are said to be "local heroes who have undertaken outstanding work in their communities".

They include the fashion designer Katharine Hamnett, who has spent most of her career trying to annoy the very establishment that has now accorded her recognition. Her T-shirts, emblazoned with political or anarchic slogans, were a favourite vehicle of protest in the 1980s.

Hamnett was even photographed sporting a T-shirt with the slogan "58% Don't Want Pershing" (nuclear missiles) as she shook hands with the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

Today the 63-year-old is appointed a CBE for her 40-year contribution to fashion and her battle to introduce "ethical" techniques in place of sweatshop labour.

Also on the list is an array of philanthropists, ranging from the very rich, such as the publisher Lord Weidenfeld, who is appointed a CBE for his public service, and Dr Marjorie Ziff, for the 60 years she has spent supporting projects and events in Leeds.

Two MPs have been included for the first time since the expenses scandal. Labour's Anne Begg, the only MP confined to a wheelchair, is made a Dame for services to the disabled, and Peter Bottomley, who has been a Conservative MP since 1975 but never progressed beyond the lower rungs of government, has received a knighthood.

The 19 knights also include Professor Keith Porter, lead clinician at the Birmingham centre for treating casualties from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and Martin Broughton, who is knighted for his stewardship of British Airways, though recently he has been more in the news as the chairman and reputed saviour of Liverpool FC.

The historian Antonia Fraser and the actress Harriet Walter are also made Dames.

The costume designer Sandy Powell, who is appointed an OBE, is more used to receiving Oscars than honours. She won her third this year for The Young Victoria. Her previous wins were for Shakespeare in Love in 1998 and The Aviator in 2004.

As usual, there are other famous names from the worlds of art, entertainment and sport, including the actors David Suchet and Sheila Hancock, the singer Annie Lennox, the folk musician Richard Thompson, the rugby coach Mike Catt and Howard Webb, who refereed the World Cup final.

But none is quite so well known as Simon Cowell, whose name was notably absent despite confident predictions that he was to receive a knighthood. Unlike failed contestants in The X Factor, the show he created, he will get many more chances.