Honours: Brown spurns chance to choose new peers

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Indy Politics

Gordon Brown has, in effect, ended the Prime Minister's right to nominate people for peerages and issued a New Year honours list that sticks with recommendations made by committee.

In releasing the first such list of his premiership, Mr Brown sent a signal that he aims to clean up the honours system and party funding after the "cash for honours" allegations.

The list saw "unsung heroes" of British society honoured, alongside a host of celebrities and civil servants. And the Prime Minister's allies said he would use a White Paper on constitutional reform in the new year to formalise changes to the way the system functions.

He has accepted the recommendations of the Select Committee on Public Administration chaired by Labour MP Tony Wright which called on the Prime Minister to cut the "marketable value" of a peerage as a political honour.

Mr Brown has decided to end the power of prime ministerial patronage over the honours system. He will also signal an end to the centuries-old tradition of automatically allowing a person to sit in the Lords if they are made a peer. A senior minister said: "We said that explicitly in the White Paper and we are already committed to doing it."

Whitehall officials said Mr Brown, in his first honours list as prime minister, signalled his intentions by refusing to add or subtract from the names submitted to him for honours by the honours committees.

The honours list is dominated by OBEs for celebrities such as Kylie Minogue and Barbara Broccoli, as well as CBEs for Leslie Phillips and Julie Walters. There is also a knighthood for Michael Parkinson, the chat-show host, and a Companion of Honour for the actor Sir Ian McKellen.

Four awards are made to members of Tony Blair's former No 10 team, including a CBE for Tom Kelly, his official spokesman and OBEs for Liz Lloyd, a former special adviser, and Wendy Abbs, the duty clerk at Downing Street. There were knighthoods for the permanent secretaries at the Ministry of Defence and Northern Ireland. But Mr Brown ordered the Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell to tell the honours committees to give priority to "unsung heroes" of Britain's cities, towns and villages. They include heroes of the floods which happened soon after Mr Brown took over from Tony Blair.

There are MBEs for Paul Jones, who fought the floods to protect gas supplies in the West Midlands; John Kelly, the West Midlands county emergency planning officer; Phil Nicholson, electricity emergency control officer and Phil Ryan, a retained fire officer in Tewkesbury who braved the rising waters when the town was deluged.

Andrea Shaw, an assistant control manager in South Yorkshire, is honoured with an MBE for her work when Sheffield was overwhelmed, along with Les Adams, national grid maintenance officer; Dan Bailey, a craftsman for the national grid, and Jon Fenn, an electricity operations manager, for keeping the electricity supplies running in spite of the floods.

Sir David Manning, Britain's former ambassador to Washington, was among the dozens of traditional diplomatic and military service honours which make up the list of 972 awards. He is made a GCMG, the most senior honour below a peerage jokingly known across Whitehall as "God Calls Me God".

About 78 per cent of the 834 MBEs and OBEs were awarded for charitable and voluntary work. There are 378 women 39 per cent in the 2008 list and 6 per cent were from ethnic minorities.