HC Deb 31 January 1967 vol 740 cc247-9
Q4. Mr. Hamling

asked the Prime Minister what further representations have been made to him on honours lists; and what reply he has sent.

The Prime Minister

I receive many representations on all aspects of the honours system. My correspondents are generally told that their views have been noted with interest.

Mr. Hamling

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a close study of the New Year's honours list will disclose that it is very little changed from those of former years? Is he further aware that it is time we had a radical reform of the honours list, and its almost complete abolition?

The Prime Minister

I have always said that we should have to study this question, including the point that I have mentioned, namely, the virtually automatic honours which are given in certain fields—or which have been given in the past, although here again, starting with the previous Government, there has been a sharp reduction in the number of honours given to higher civil servants. That started in 1962 or 1963. If my hon. Friend has studied the New Year's honours list he will have noticed that no honours were granted for public and political services. He will also have noticed that over the past two years, with the exception of Law Officers, we have not been recommending baronetcies and knighthoods to Government Members, compared with a figure of 134 for which right hon. Gentlemen opposite were responsible in their period of office.

Sir D. Renton

Will the Prime Minister give an undertaking not to end the present system of granting life peerages until the granting of one to the Paymaster-General for his distinguished services to the Turf?

The Prime Minister

It is not usual to discuss the granting of honours to particular individuals, but I often wonder what the right hon. and learned Member did to get his knighthood out of the previous Government.

Mr. Ogden

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a need for a new order of gallantry that will avoid people such as Sir Francis Chichester being included in the same list as dress designers and ballet dancers?

The Prime Minister

Again, it is inappropriate of the House to discuss individual honours, but I would have hoped that the whole House not only approved of the announcement last week but will join with everybody who has expressed good wishes to Sir Francis Chichester on the hazardous voyage that he is undertaking.

Mr. Wolrige-Gordon

Can the Prime Minister tell us where is now the Empire of which he is still making people Commanders, and giving them Orders?

The Prime Minister

Both under the previous Government and the present Government a lot of thought has been given to whether there should be a suitable change in the name of that Order. All the arguments in the end come down against it. Some attractive substitutes might create difficulties with the initials.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, you will recall that the Interim Report by the Select Committee on Procedure drew attention to the fact that Ministers and Prime Ministers uses Question Time for personal abuse of Members of the House of Commons, and your predecessor in the Chair thought that this practice was very undesirable and not in keeping with the dignity of the Prime Minister's office. Is there anything that we can do to change the conditions back to the standards of courtesy which used to exist?

Mr. C. Pannell

Will you consider at the same time, Mr. Speaker, that the question by the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) was itself grossly offensive, and merely received from the Prime Minister the answer that it deserved?

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Can the Prime Minister tell us for what services to the British Empire he got his O.B.E.?

The Prime Minister

That honour was net for me to question. It was recommended by Sir Winston Churchill. I should have thought that that would be an answer to the hon. Member. He will have noticed that the little habit of the Conservatives, in all the years except one, of appointing the Chairman of the Young Conservatives to the M.B.E.—many of them are here—has not been followed by us.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that the House in its best moments would deprecate the introduction of personalities at all. In this case they were not first introduced by the Prime Minister, but neither the question nor the answer was of a kind that is desirable.

Mr. Shinwell

On a point of order. Would the House like to use my services to pour a little oil on the troubled waters?

Mr. Speaker

It is not possible for the occupant of the Chair to comment on that; he might be guilty of the offence which he has just deprecated.

Sir D. Renton

I would not wish to compete with the right hon. Gentleman in pouring oil on troubled waters, but, if it helps at the moment to say so, I think that in view of the question which I asked, the Prime Minister's answer was only what I should have expected.

Mr. Speaker

Order. On that oracular note we must pass on.