Letter: Reform of the honours system is a mixed blessing

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The Independent Online
Sir: Those who would welcome a fairer system of awarding honours, and one that puts more emphasis on merit, should examine carefully what the Prime Minister now proposes ('Major gives public right to nominate people for honours', 5 March).

In a rough and ready way the system of awarding honours to civil servants did indeed reward merit. Those who devoted themselves to the public service more assiduously than their peers were given the greater responsibilities. And with that went an honour in recognition of the meritorious devotion to public service which had carried the honorand up the hierarchy. Some rogues and idlers got what they did not merit; but not many.

What is to happen now? Length of meritorious service and the holding of senior office are not to be the criteria. We are to have merit pure and undefiled. Who then will define merit? No doubt John Major and his colleagues. On what grounds? Zeal in pleasing their masters.

Politicians are busy destroying every centre of authority that they do not control. The erosion of

the independence and incorruptibility of the civil and diplomatic services are part of the same agenda. Cheer if you will, but before long the tumbrils will roll for you.

Yours faithfully,


London, NW1

4 March