Major gives public right to nominate people for honours
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
Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts
Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested
George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios
Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?
Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets
Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination
I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title
- 1 Indian footballer Peter Biaksangzuala dies after injuring spine doing somersault celebration
- 4 Drink alcohol and eat meat to improve male fertility - but cut down on coffee, studies suggest
- 5 Brian Harvey turns up at Downing Street and 'demands to speak to Prime Minister'
Jack the Ripper: Scientist who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
Banksy arrest hoax: Internet duped by fake report claiming that the street artist's identity has been revealed
'Russian submarine spotted' by Swedish military off coast of Stockholm
Brian Harvey turns up at Downing Street and 'demands to speak to Prime Minister'
Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver allegedly kicks gay couple off for kissing
Amal Alamuddin calls for the return of the Elgin Marbles from Britain: 'Injustice has persisted for too long'
Lord Freud: Tory welfare minister apologises after saying disabled people are 'not worth’ the minimum wage
£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...
£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...
£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...