Honours system reform is overdue
Too many awards for party donors & time-servers
Abolish all imperial and feudal titles, reward sacrifice & bravery
London – 29 August 2012
“Proposals to reform the honours system to make it fair and to reward only exceptional effort are welcome and long overdue,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
He was commenting on the recommendations of the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee.
Mr Tatchell has been sounded out in the past about being nominated for an honour for his 45 years of unsalaried human rights work, but he has declined.
“There are too many awards for party donors, establishment figures and time-servers. All imperial and feudal titles should be abolished. The honours system should only reward exceptional achievement and people who have made personal sacrifices for the benefit of others,” he added.
“No one deserves an honour for doing their day job. Rich and powerful people should not receive honours for doing prestigious, well-paid jobs.
“The tradition of automatic gongs for time-serving senior civil servants and diplomats should be abolished.
“Under the current system, many awards smack of cronyism. The elite rewards the elite, with the rich and powerful giving honours to the rich and powerful. They often know each other and nominate each other. Too many recipients are donors to political parties. This is tantamount to nepotism and corruption.
“Local heroes and community volunteers tend to receive the low order honours, such as MBEs. Establishment figures are given most of the highest awards, the knighthoods.
“A majority of the top honours go to business, military, diplomatic and civil service big-wigs, not to selfless, unpaid charity workers.
“In recent years, the bosses of British Airways and British Gas received knighthoods. There were also honours for the Queen’s pastry chef and gardener, the lady-in-waiting to Duchess of Gloucester and the Lord Lieutenants of Nottinghamshire and Lancashire.
“They have done nothing exceptional. Giving them honours is an insult to the many ordinary people who have made great personal sacrifices to help uplift their local communities and support good causes. It looks like favouritism and brings the honours system into disrepute.
“Knighthoods and damehoods are absurd relics of feudalism, totally out of step with modern, meritocratic Britain.
“Honours that include imperial titles, such as the Order of the British Empire, are inappropriate. The British Empire is long gone. When it existed, hundreds of millions of people in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Pacific were colonised by Britain, ruled against their will, exploited as cheap labour and had their lands stripped of natural resources. This imperial history is not something to worthy of commemoration with honours called MBEs, OBEs and CBEs.
“It is time to abolish the current honours system. Reform and rename it. Limit awards to people who show great bravery and to those who do decades of unpaid volunteer and charity work.” said Mr Tatchell.
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