The previous Government had a policy of not recommending honours for political service, although some individuals were honoured for services to Parliament. The Government believe that there are many people in politics who demonstrate selfless commitment for the good of the nation and that it is right to recognise the best of them.
A new honours committee—the Parliamentary and Political Service Honours Committee—is therefore being established. It will consider candidates for honours from the Westminster Parliament and the devolved legislatures; the staffs of those bodies and the bodies which report directly to them (for example, the National Audit Office and the ombudsmen); and, voluntary workers and staff of the political parties.
Lord Spicer is the chairman of the new committee. The official members are the three Commons Chief Whips of the major parties. There are also to be at least four independent members: currently these are Baroness Hayman, Lord Butler of Brockwell, Dame Mary Keegan and Peter Riddell.
The membership has been chosen to include a balance of party members and those who do not have known party allegiances but have a good awareness of Parliament and the bodies which report to it. Because of time constraints, it has not been possible to select these independent members by the normal process of open advertising and written application in line with Nolan procedures. The intention is that when further appointments are to be made, they will be carried out using the normal processes for selecting honours committee members.
The new committee has been established for the birthday 2012 honours round and has the support of the three main parties. As with all the specialist honours committees, its recommendations are subject to the agreement of the main honours committee, chaired by the head of the civil service.