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Society and Culture Society and Culture

Review the honours system

Last updated: 12:03pm 18 January 2019

We will review the honours system to make sure it commands public confidence, rewards genuine public service and that recipients uphold the integrity of the honours bestowed.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.43

Our verdict

According to the government’s website, the honours system is designed to recognise people who have made achievements in public life, or committed themselves to serving and helping Britain. Anyone can be nominated to receive an honour. There are various types of honours and awards, such as knighthoods and damehoods, Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) and Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).

A major report on the honours system by the Public Administration Select Committee in 2012 identified various problems. Among them were:

  • the perception that honours are linked to donations to political parties
  • devolved nations, and certain English regions, receive a higher proportion of honours than is proportionate for their population
  • a lack of transparency about what happens to nominations once submitted
  • it is distasteful and damaging for people … to be honoured for simply being at the helm of large companies

The Select Committee proposed reforms to the system, but in most cases they were rejected by the government of the day. This manifesto pledge to review the honours system suggests that a lack of public confidence remains a concern.

Under the current government, we can find no action to initiate the promised review, so we’re marking this as ‘not started’. If there is an announcement of a review being established we will be able to move this pledge to ‘in progress’. We’ll be watching for any developments, so follow this policy to keep up to date.

Review the details

There's always room for debate

We’re serious about providing clear, up-to-date, non-partisan information. We focus on being consistent and fair in how we reach our verdicts, and always explain our reasoning. But there is always room for debate. So if you see it differently, we’d love you to tell us why. Or even better, submit an edit.