Discussion Group – May 2022

Officer of the Order of the British Empire

Six of us, including three new members, from the discussion group met at the Manor House on Monday 9th May to talk about the honours system. After a very brief explanation of the current system, a number of matters came up for discussion.

On the whole some kind of system to award excellence in the arts, sciences, charity sector, sports and public service was approved of. The name of the most common Order under which honours are awarded, the Order of the British Empire (under which MBE’s, OBE’s etc are given) was felt to be an anachronism, and that changing the name, rather than the purpose, should be treated as a priority.

It is only quite recently that members of the public have been allowed to nominate people for an award, in addition to government departments. We felt that was a necessary improvement, and that it should be expanded from the current 25% of awards currently made after public nomination. More transparency around the approval of awards, currently carried out by a committee of experts and civil servants, was felt to be required, together with a greater degree of openness regarding the nominations from government departments. A better understanding of the levels of achievement that lead to certain levels of awards would be helpful.

There was little approval for the current system whereby being appointed to a certain position in your work, particularly in the Civil Service, leads to the award of a particular honour, it being felt that something over and above what would normally be expected of someone was a prerequisite for consideration for an honour.

The current arrangement, whereby awards may be granted to citizens of 15 realms as well as the UK was questioned, as was whether being resident in the UK for tax purposes should be mandatory. Also mentioned was the possibility of one honour only at a single level being awarded, together with the possibility of placing a letter in brackets after the initials of the award to indicate the sphere in which the recipient had excelled, such as a ‘C’ for charity work. It was thought that such a system might help people differentiate between achievements, and that a ‘P’ for ‘political’ might become an award subject to some derision.

Having sorted that lot out, and deciding to deal with immigration, refugees and asylum issues next time, we finished for the morning. Without our deliberations to guide them I don’t know how the government would cope.

Michael Heyden, Convenor.

Please note that the views expressed by the Discussion Group may not represent those of the wider Dawlish and District membership.