Major gives public right to nominate people for honours

MEMBERS of the public will be encouraged to nominate people for honours under a more egalitarian system that will scrap the 'working class' British Empire Medal and 'gongs by rank' while putting new emphasis on voluntary service and merit.

But while successfully sidelining opposition from within Whitehall, John Major's initiative - announced yesterday - leaves political patronage intact, prompting angry attacks from opposition MPs. 'Why do Conservative governments, and only Conservative governments, wish to use the honours system as a form of patronage for their political supporters?' John Smith, the Labour leader, asked.

Long-serving Tory backbench MPs can still normally expect a knighthood, but they, like businessmen, civil servants and diplomats, may have to provide more proof that they have earnt it under criteria set out by the Prime Minister in the Commons yesterday.

'In future there should be no assumption that honours will automatically be attached to particular posts in either the public or the private sector,' Mr Major said.

Members of the public will be able to nominate people for awards by obtaining a form from the Honours Secretariat at 10 Downing Street. The changes, most of which will apply to the next Queen's Birthday Honours List, mean an end to automatic knighthoods for government law officers and ambassadors, and to awards for simply doing one's job properly.

All honours will be awarded 'on merit, for exceptional achievement, or exceptional service over and above what normally might be expected', Mr Major said. There should be different levels of awards to reflect different levels of achievement and honours should place more emphasis on voluntary service.

While the new criteria indicate the possibility of a more selective approach to awards for industrialists and politicians, the 'gong' scores of the civil and diplomatic services and armed forces appear to have exercised Mr Major rather more. Bringing forward the five- yearly Review of Honours to the summer, he has asked it to ensure that numbers of awards to state servants reflect the role and size of the three services. It indicates the extent to which the Prime Minister has beaten opposition from Whitehall mandarins.

He is keen to recognise community work, such as inner-city initiatives that could divert young people from crime. He has asked the review to take greater account of work in the voluntary sector and service to the community. The changes are viewed as radical in Downing Street. But Mr Smith said: 'Have you no shame about the way that each year eight Conservative MPs regularly and automatically collect knighthoods, for no other reason but being supporters of the ruling political party? Do you not think the connection between awards of honours and donations by companies to the Conservative Party is a shoddy misuse of a system set up to recognise public service?'

Mr Major insisted there was 'very stringent' independent scrutiny of all honours.

Only High Court judges will be exempt from the abandonment of automatic honours (all are knighted on appointment) on the ground, Mr Major said, that awards should not be thought to depend on government approval of legal judgments. Chris Mullin, Labour MP for Sunderland South, suggested the best way to preserve their independence was to give knighthoods to none of them.

All those who would have received the BEM will get its equivalent, the MBE, which will account for two-thirds of the Prime Minister's usual list of 1,000. The Military Medal for bravery by non-commissioned officers and lower ranks will be abolished. All will get the Military Cross, reserved for commissioned officers.

Malcolm Rifkind, the Secretary of State for Defence, is to announce separately the results of a wider review of gallantry awards.

The Queen has agreed to increase the numbers of investitures at Buckingham Palace and - for the first time - elsewhere in the country, although she will not conduct all of them herself.

Leading article, page 20

Privilege and reward, page 21

peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits