Letter: Honours that are not just an act

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Sir: What a mean-spirited and unoriginal article was penned by Michael De-la-Noy ('Honours of little merit', 28 December). The very headline did its best to belittle all those who have received recognition in the past, while the contents of the bilious article which accompanied it only added to the depressing aura of denigration emanating from the Comment page.

Pejorative words and phrases were scattered around in profusion - 'drooling', 'mediocre', 'routine', 'deplorable', 'invidious', 'demeans', 'undistinguished', 'shovelled', 'dubious', 'third-rate', 'damp squib' - all had their turn, although

the best the writer could

dredge up for actors was to describe them as 'garrulous', especially those in the House of


Is that not a pleonasm - for who in the Palace of Westminster is not talkative? However, I would remind Mr De-la-Noy (is his name a 'historical aberration' too?) that, contrary to the impression fostered by his article, there have been only four life peers who were actors - Lord Olivier, Lord Miles, Lord Attenborough and myself - and two of those are dead. I would hardly think we constitute a powerful enough lobby to be 'conducting the affairs of the nation'.

All four of us elevated to the Lords were not placed there for our acting alone. Indeed, it is doubtful if I ever aspired to such lofty heights. After a unique film and theatre career, Lord Olivier was the first director of the Royal National Theatre; Lord Miles created the highly original Mermaid Theatre; Lord Attenborough is a major contributor to the British film industry and an extremely hard worker for many a worthwhile cause; while I am chairman of Mencap and other allied voluntary organisations and do my best to speak up for people with a mental handicap or learning disability and their families.

If we were conducting the affairs of the nation, perhaps those with disabilities (more than 10 per cent of the population) and hard- pressed arts practitioners would receive practical recognition of their worth. Honours would no doubt be accepted, but those concerned would rather have anti-

discrimination legislation and adequate financial support. What a new year honour that would


Yours etc,


House of Lords

London, SW1

28 December