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Volume 456: debated on Monday 29 January 2007

7. On how many occasions her Department provided advice to members of the public on the nomination of individuals for honours within her Department’s areas of responsibilities in the last 12 months. (111458)

The Department regularly provides advice and guidance to members of the public on all aspects of the honours process, including how to nominate someone for an award. We do not keep a record of the number of occasions on which we have provided information to members of the public.

I thank my hon. Friend for that response. He may be aware that more than 1,500 people have signed a petition asking the Queen to grant Ringo Starr a knighthood. Despite my grave misgivings about the honours system—in fact, my opposition to it; I regard it as anachronistic—it appears that at least some members of the public take an interest in who receives the awards. With that in mind, does my hon. Friend agree that it might be an idea to open up the honours system to greater democratic accountability, rather than having the fairly obscure, opaque system that we currently have?

I hope that my hon. Friend will acknowledge that there has been progress on the honours system since the new committees were set up. In effect, they have a panel of experts who can decide who merits an honour on the basis of comparing candidates. My hon. Friend will also appreciate, I suspect, that popularity is just one indication of merit.