Honours reform has Whitehall waiting: Next week's Birthday list will reveal John Major's fairer system for awards. Steve Goodwin reports

HALF A DOZEN Major Generals and twice as many Whitehall Under- Secretaries will be watching next week's Birthday Honours List to see if membership of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath still comes with the rations or if reform of the twice-yearly ritual has matched John Major's stated intentions.

'In future there should be no assumption that honours will automatically be attached to particular posts in either the public or the private sector,' the Prime Minister said when announcing changes to the system last March.

The chivalrous orders of the Bath, for the military and home civil servants, and of St Michael and St George, for diplomats, have been one of the most hidebound areas of the honours system. Major Generals, Rear-Admirals, Air Vice-Marshals and Under and Deputy Secretaries become companions of the Order of the Bath (CBs) while ambassadors in places of modest importance like Havana and Dakar, become CMGs.

Vice-Admirals, Lieutenant-Generals, Air Marshals and Whitehall Permament Secretaries become Knights in the Order of the Bath (KCBs), while ambassadors in more important capitals, like Bonn, become KCMGs. The most senior figures in each service eventually become Knights Grand Cross (GCB or GCMG).

Of the 19 main Whitehall departments, 12 are headed by knights, five by CBs and two by mandarins yet to join an order. Such title-nakedness would not in the past have been allowed to last long for Patrick Brown, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Transport, and Richard Mottram, heading the office of the Citizen's Charter minister, William Waldegrave.

Under the traditional 'Buggins' turn' system, John Chilcot, Permanent Secretary at the Northern Ireland Office since 1990 and a CB in the same year, is due a knighthood, as is Graham Hart, a CB since 1987, and top civil servant at the Department of Health since last year. Sir Peter Gregson (KCB, 1988) at the DTI and Sir Christopher France (1989) would be in line to be upgraded to Knight Grand Cross, though no more than one GCB was awarded in each list. Sir David Gillmore, head of the Foreign Office and diplomatic service since 1991, could expect to have the KCMG he was awarded in 1990 upgraded to Knight Grand Cross.

'Heads of particular organisations can no longer expect an honour just because their predecessor received one,' Mr Major said. However, none need give up hope. He emphasised that many public servants and office holders would still qualify for honours on merit.

The obvious difference in next Saturday's list will the scrapping of the 'working-class' British Empire Medal and a commensurate increase in MBEs - members of the Order of the British Empire. Some two-thirds of the 1,000 or so awards will be in this expanded category. The Birthday list will see more awards to the voluntary sector but only a limited number of the names will be drawn from the nominations sent in by members of the public since Mr Major's statement. Thousands of forms have been obtained but the filtering work of the honours selection committees would have been over for Saturday's list before many were returned - 1 June was the deadline for the 1994 New Year List.

Political honours for Conservatives and Liberal Democrats continue unchanged. Labour takes no part in the system. Thus a few loyal Tory backbenchers, or ministers of below Cabinet rank, are expected to become Knights Bachelor.

Candidates for this are Tristan Garel-Jones, who stepped down as Minister of State at the Foreign Office after piloting the Maastricht legislation through the Commons, and Archie Hamilton, former Minister of State for the Armed Forces.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power