Britain should hand more titles to ordinary citizens - lawmakers

Wed Aug 29, 2012 12:09pm EDT
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By Mohammed Abbas

LONDON (Reuters) - Public trust in Britain's system of awarding titles such as Knight and Dame could be damaged because honors are handed to society's elite such as celebrities and sports stars rather than ordinary citizens, lawmakers said on Wednesday.

Honours, which also include Officer of the Order of the British Empire and Commander of the British Empire, are bestowed by the Queen for public service or outstanding achievement, according to a list submitted by the prime minister.

High-profile recipients include musician Elton John and cyclist Chris Hoy, who has won six Olympic gold medals. Both have been knighted and can use the title "Sir".

Lawmakers on parliament's civil service watchdog said that while British people valued the honours system, few understood how or why titles were bestowed and believed they were awarded to the "usual suspects they already know".

"Far too few (honours) are being awarded to ordinary citizens for the extraordinary contributions they make to their communities - which is what the honours system should be for," said chairman Bernard Jenkin.

"There should be no ‘automatic' honours for people who hold a certain post, or for celebrities and sports stars at a certain level, but too often it seems this is still the case."

The names of people to be honored are published twice a year at new year and in mid-June on the Queen's official birthday. Anyone can recommend someone to be honored, but nominations are ultimately handled by a government department.

There are a myriad awards, often with archaic names harking back to medieval times, including Order of the Garter, Order of the Thistle and Order of the Bath.   Continued...