HC Deb 15 November 1966 vol 736 cc221-2
Q4. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister whether his proposals for modernising the Honours system include specific references to the methods by which civil servants are honoured in large numbers each year.

The Prime Minister

I have nothing to add to the Answer I gave on 27th October to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Armstrong).

Mr. Hamilton

Would my right hon. Friend say why he strained at the gnat and swallowed the camel in this respect? Is it not the case that the number of political honours in each Honours List is about one-tenth of the number awarded to civil servants? When will he make some inroads into this kind of patronage?

The Prime Minister

My statement referred, as it was intended to do, specifically to political honours. I think that the decision which I announced on that occasion was right, but I said in answer to a supplementary question, that, of course, the whole Honours system will be under continuous review—not excluding the question of the number and type of honours for which civil servants and members of the Armed Services are recommended. This will be a continuing review, but I cannot promise my hon. Friend any early statement about it.

Mr. Frederic Harris

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that the inference behind the Question was that civil servants have been wrongly honoured, even when he has been Prime Minister? Does he agree with that inference?

The Prime Minister

I do not agree with that suggestion, if that was the implication of my hon. Friend's Question. I thought that what he was after—it is a point which has been a matter of some public comment—was that, in the past, including the last two years, a number of honours have been given—there is a very strong case for it—both to members of the Armed Forces and to civil servants in relation to rank rather than particular achievement. This is a point on which there is a lot to be said on both sides. I should not want to rush into a decision about it.