HC Deb 04 March 1993 vol 220 cc453-63 3.30 pm
The Prime Minister (Mr. John Major)

With permission, I should like to make a statement about the honours system and to announce some changes, which have been approved by Her Majesty the Queen.

The award of honours for service and achievement has been a valued part of British life for centuries. [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. Would the Prime Minister allow me? Would those Members leaving the Chamber do so quietly? We want to continue with our business here.

The Prime Minister

Let me begin again for those hon. Members who may not have heard what I was saying in the hubbub.

With permission, Madam Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the honours system and to announce some changes which have been approved by Her Majesty the Queen.

The award of honours for service and achievement has been a valued part of British life for centuries. It is the means by which we, as a nation, can show our respect and gratitude to those who have contributed most to our national life. Acts of courage, lives of sacrifice, inventiveness, generosity and commitment to others are formally recognised and acknowledged. It is rooted in our history, and given special value by the close personal attention which the sovereign has given to it. To retain its valued role in our national life, the honours system must, from time to time, be reviewed and renewed.

The present system has remained largely unchanged for 70 years, despite huge changes in national life. I have therefore been discussing with Her Majesty some changes that will, I believe, enjoy widespread support.

I wish to start by clarifying the circumstances in which honours awards should be made.

First, honours should be awarded on merit, for exceptional achievement or exceptional service, over and above that which normally might be expected. Secondly, there should be different levels of award to reflect different levels of achievement. Thirdly, awards should not be automatic and follow simply as a result of doing a particular job. Fourthly, awards should place more emphasis on voluntary service.

I therefore propose to end the recommendation of honours where they are given solely by seniority or on appointment. In future, with one exception I shall turn to in a moment, there should be no assumption that honours will automatically be attached to particular posts in either the public or the private sector.

Public servants and office holders will, of course, still be eligible to receive honours, and many will qualify on merit, but the assumption that a particular post automatically carries an honour will end. Instead, awards will be open —on merit—to a wider range of individuals.

I intend that these principles should be applied throughout the civil service and the rest of the public sector, and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence concur in respect of the foreign service and the armed forces.

I also intend the same principles to apply in the private sector. Many people give generously of their time, energy and expertise to help their fellow citizens, and a more flexible system can take greater account of such contributions. While heads of particular organisations can no longer expect an honour just because their predecessor received one, they will, of course, continue to be eligible if their achievement and their service to the community merit it. I propose to continue making recommendations for political service, and I shall apply the same principles there, too.

I mentioned earlier one exception. The independence of the judiciary is fundamental to our legal system. Awards of honours should not be thought to depend upon approval of legal judgments. For that reason, I believe that High Court judges should continue to receive the traditional honour of a knighthood on appointment. This practice has preserved the independence of the Bench from the exercise of patronage for two centuries, and I believe it should continue.

I should now like to turn to specific awards where I have some changes to announce. The largest proportion by far of current awards are MBEs and BEMs, mainly for service to local communities. The distinction between service meriting the award of an MBE and that meriting a British Empire Medal has become increasingly tenuous. It can no longer be sustained. I therefore intend in future to increase the number of recommendations for MBEs and to discontinue recommending awards of BEMs. I should make it clear that this change will not affect existing holders of the BEM, who will of course retain their medals. These are, rightly, highly treasured personal possessions.

The change will also apply to the lists recommended by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. The Governments of those Commonwealth countries that recommend British Empire Medals in their own lists have been informed of these proposals.

To end a similar distinction in the Imperial Service Order, I shall no longer make recommendations for awards of the ISO. Those considered to merit the award will instead receive OBEs. The associated Imperial Service Medal is a long-service medal awarded on retirement and will continue.

At present, those receiving the BEM do not attend a royal investiture. For the future, the Queen has graciously agreed to increase the number of investitures both at Buckingham palace and elsewhere in the country. This will enable the increased numbers receiving MBEs to attend a royal investiture, though the Queen will not be able to conduct all investitures herself. I realise, however, that some may value a local presentation which gives greater opportunity for friends and family to mark the occasion. Her Majesty has, therefore, agreed that those awarded MBEs, OBEs or CBEs may receive their honour from their lord lieutenant if they prefer. The choice will rest entirely with the recipient.

I turn now to military gallantry awards. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence is separately conducting a review, and will be announcing his conclusions shortly. But there is one change I can announce today. At present, except for the Victoria Cross, awards for gallantry are linked to the rank of the recipient. Officers are eligable to receive crosses or equivalent decorations, but non-commissioned ranks are eligible only for medals. The time has come to end this distinction. In future, the level of award will be determined by the part played by the individuals concerned, and the courage they displayed, without regard to their rank.

At present, the numbers and distribution of honours are reviewed every five years. However, I have requested that the next examination of these numbers be brought forward to the summer of this year. I have asked the review, first, to take greater account of the desirability of recognising work in the voluntary sector and service to the community; secondly, to look at the proportion of awards to state servants to ensure that it appropriately reflects changes in the role and the size of the home civil service, the diplomatic service and the armed forces.

Finally, I believe that the means of nomination for honours should be more widely known and more open. It is, at present, too haphazard. Nomination forms, setting out the type of information needed, have therefore been prepared. I will make sure that the forms are readily available both to members of the public and particularly to voluntary bodies and charities. I hope that this change will help increase the recognition of merit of all kinds.

The honours system has been with us for centuries and has a continuing and valued role to play in British life. I strongly support it, but it is right that it should periodically be examined. The changes that I have announced today mean that exceptional service or achievement will be more widely recognised; that greater importance will be given to voluntary service; that automatic honours will end; that the distinction between ranks in military operational gallantry awards will cease; that the bulk of honours in the half-yearly lists will be of a single, undifferentiated award, the MBE; that all recipients of honours will be invited to a royal investiture.

I shall report to the House in due course on the review of the numbers and distribution of honours, and I shall consider at that time whether further changes are needed.

Mr. John Smith (Monklands, East)

There will be widespread acceptance of the abolition of the distinction of rank in certain civilian awards and in decorations for gallantry. I think that we would all agree that the criteria for the award of an honour should be exceptional achievement or service to the public benefit. I hope that the Prime Minister will be able to demonstrate that principle in practice.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why it has been decided to retain the notion of an Order of the British Empire? Might it not at least have been changed to Commonwealth? Why has he retained political honours —the part of the system on which he was least forthcoming in his statement? Why do Conservative Governments—and only Conservative Governments—wish to use the honours system as a form of patronage for their political supporters? I observe that there is nothing haphazard about the award of political honours to the Conservative party. Has he no shame about the way in which eight Conservative Members of Parliament regularly and automatically collect knighthoods each year, for no other reason than that they are supporters of the ruling political party? If he really means what he says about stopping automatic honours, could he not usefully start with Conservative Members of Parliament?

Does the Prime Minister not think that the connection between awards of honours and donations by companies to the Conservative party is shoddy misuse of a system set up to recognise public service? If he really wants to reform the honours system properly, ought he not to start by distinguishing political and financial support for the Conservative party from genuine public service?

Finally, does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the honours system will be judged by our public for its capacity to recognise the many acts of service and sacrifice made by ordinary citizens, and the more that that can be done, the more it will be found to be acceptable?

The Prime Minister

I made that last point entirely clear in my statement a few moments go. I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his welcome for the principles of review and I am delighted that he was prepared to express them in the House. His specific questions included, first, why we should retain the title of the "British Empire". I accept that it is resonant of a previous era, but it has an historical pedigree, is respected and familiar, and I see no advantage or purpose in changing it. I believe that it is more important to review the criteria and eligibility for awards than to seek new names for them. There is also the practical point that the Order of the British Empire is still in use in a number of Commonwealth countries.

As for political honours, I see no reason why those who work in support of a political party should be excluded from recognition. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, that view is also held privately by many people in his party, who would be only too grateful if he would recommend them. It means a great deal to people who work to sustain our democratic system and who might otherwise receive no recognition. I have no intention of abandoning the awarding of honours for political service.

As for donations by companies, the right hon. and learned Gentleman should be aware of the activities of the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee. If he were, he would not have made the ill-judged remarks that he has just made.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

Anyone with military experience knows that the heroism of the bravest and best usually goes unrecognised. In his examination of military honours, will my right hon. Friend urge the Defence Secretary to retain the Distinguished Service Order, which ensures recognition for officers who have demonstrated not only heroism under fire but an aptitude for command, thus combining both attributes effectively in Her Majesty's service?

The Prime Minister

I can assure my hon. Friend that that is being taken into account by my right hon. and learned Friend in his review. He intends that awards for gallantry should no longer artificially distinguish between officers, who receive crosses, and other ranks, who receive medals.

Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)

Is the Prime Minister aware that his statement is welcome but disappointingly timid? Is that it, or does he have some other reforms in prospect? If this is the beginning and end of it, many people will regard him as having missed an opportunity and failed to live up to some of his own rhetoric about fundamentally reforming the system.

May I make two suggestions? Since the right hon. Gentleman has gone halfway towards simplifying the system, why not go the whole way and have a single honour with different grades and classifications to match different merits? Secondly, and perhaps more important, why does not the Prime Minister choose this occasion to remove the honours system from the powers of patronage of the Prime Minister and the political system at large, and vest it instead in an independent commission, free of political influence and, from time to time, political abuse?

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, there is stringent independent scrutiny of all honours before they are approved.

It has never been my view that we should fundamentally reform the system. It has been my view that we needed to bring it up to date so that it retains its credibility.

The right hon. Gentleman's concept of a single honour, no doubt with classes 1, 2, 3 and 4, is not one which would appeal to me.

As to whether there will be further changes, I said in my statement that at the end of the review in the summer I would consider, without commitment, whether further changes were necessary.

Sir Peter Tapsell (East Lindsey)


Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Madam Speaker

Order. The House must settle down. These interruptions are just a waste of time.

Sir Peter Tapsell

As an example, perhaps, of the somewhat haphazard way in which routine political honours are conferred, may I ask my right hon. Friend to whom the nomination papers that he has mentioned are to be posted? May I suggest that they should be sent to the lords lieutenant and not to Members of Parliament?

The Prime Minister

I think that my hon. Friend understates his own distinction. The nomination papers can be submitted either to the lords lieutenant or to the honours section of 10 Downing street.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

Is the Prime Minister aware that the history of the honours system is, as he says, very old, established by William the Conqueror when he took us into the common market in 1066? Baronetcies were introduced by James I and sold for £1,095 to raise money to send troops to Ulster. Is he further aware that Lloyd-George sold honours absolutely ruthlessly to boost his own political funds; and that the system suffers from two serious defects, neither of which he has turned his mind to at all?

The first is that the honours system is based on what a person is when he does something, not on what he does. That is to say, a senior civil servant may still get a high honour, but a sub-postmistress who has fought off bandits and been seriously wounded will get the lowest order of all. That is a defect to which the right hon. Gentleman has not addressed himself because he still clings to the Order of the British Empire, one of the most recent honours, which was established in 1915 shortly before the British empire disappeared.

The second defect of the honours system is that the Crown lends to the Prime Minister and party leaders its authority to give political patronage. That patronage is ruthlessly used for political purposes. The most obvious example is that the past 10 Prime Ministers put more than 800 people in another place, whereas it takes the entire British electorate to—

Madam Speaker

Order. I have to say that this is all very interesting but that it is time for questions. There are many hon. Members to be called on both sides of the House.

Mr. Benn

The patronage system is corrupt—everybody knows that—and it should be brought to an end. The system makes the country a laughing stock when people are bedecked in ribbons that have no meaning. In some instances, those who wear them are having old political debts repaid for reasons that are very disreputable.

The Prime Minister

I am surprised at what the right hon. Gentleman has to say. I doubt whether the first Lord Stansgate was corrupted by his honour in earlier days. William the Conqueror brought the common market here rather than the other way round. At least Lloyd-George did not use lavender paper—the right hon. Gentleman made no mention of that.

On the right hon. Gentleman's two substantial points, I have addressed myself directly to the first defect that he set out. I hope that, on re-reading my statement, he will see that. He removed himself from the other place to here, but there are many of us here who believe that the other place has an important role to play in our constitution—not least those on his Front Bench, who continue to nominate people to serve in it.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

May I support my right hon. Friend in the general thrust of his proposals—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear".] I have not finished. Will he advise more senior colleagues than myself on the Government Benches whether they are more or less likely to get an honour, whatever the strong views that they may hold, if they support or oppose the Maastricht treaty? What honour does my right hon. Friend have in mind for the federalists of the Liberal party, who have gone into a coalition with him in an attempt to get that abhorrent treaty on the statute book? Would it be the Order of Delors Grand Cross?

The Prime Minister

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his ingenuity if, perhaps, on little else. I am always delighted to have his support, if for no other reason than its novelty.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

My colleagues and I welcome the general thrust of the Prime Minister's statement, but we wish to know whether it will be an open system or an opaque one. Those of us who have been asked to support nominations have been amazed at those who happen to come up and those who are missed. The right hon. Gentleman talked about judges. If a Northern Ireland judge dissociates himself from patronage, will the right hon. Gentleman refuse him a knighthood? Has the right hon. Gentleman consulted his right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland with a view to restoring the Order of St. Patrick?

The Prime Minister

I have not consulted my right hon. and learned Friend on that matter. I have sought to make the system more open and nominations easier. I suspect that there are many who merit an award who are never nominated because of the present haphazard system. I hope that the changes that I have announced today will improve the system and make it more likely that those who merit an award will be honoured in future.

Mr. Anthony Steen (South Hams)

First, I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his splendid and long-overdue statement. I think that the House will agree that far too much evil and badness is portrayed in the newspapers and the media. The fact that my right hon. Friend is to pick out good works and voluntary work in the community as being worthy of honour should be supported by the House. But will my right hon. Friend look at the process, not just the awards? I think that the House would like a more open system so that we know how it works.

The Prime Minister

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of giving greater emphasis to the voluntary and the charitable sectors and, as I said in my statement, that is what I propose to do. As I said a moment ago, I am seeking to make the system more open and I believe that the changes that I have announced today will help do so.

Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South)

Is not the best way to preserve the independence of the judiciary to give none of them knighthoods rather than all of them knighthoods? Does not the same apply to journalists? While we are on the subject, can the Prime Minister throw any light on the award of a damehood to a Miss Sue Tinson, an associate editor of Independent Television News and a former editor of "News at Ten", in the resignation honours of his predecessor?

The Prime Minister

What the hon. Gentleman has to say is certainly an option. It is one which, no doubt, I and, in many years to come, my successors will consider.

Mr. Barry Field (Isle of Wight)

One of my most prized possessions is the Territorial Decoration for service in Her Majesty's Reserve forces. My father holds the Territorial Medal because, despite distinguished service during the war, and commissioned at that, he missed the TD by one day because of the cessation of hostilities. There is great camaraderie in the Reserve forces and it would be widely welcomed if my right hon. Friend could tell the House today that there will be a universal award for the Reserve forces in the United Kingdom.

The Prime Minister

That is a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence to consider in his review. He has heard what my hon. Friend has had to say and I am sure that he will consider it.

Mr. Peter Mandelson (Hartlepool)

Does the Prime Minister agree that the least legitimate and least supported feature of the honours system is the occasional award of hereditary peerages? Will that practice cease forthwith?

The Prime Minister

I have no plans to award hereditary peerages.

Mr. John Gorst (Hendon, North)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a general belief that people in their 70s and 80s are almost no longer eligible for recognition? Is he further aware that many of them are not recognised either because they have been overlooked or because they have done further work? Will he give an assurance that age is no bar to the recognition of merit?

The Prime Minister

Yes, my hon. Friend touches upon an important point and I can give him that assurance.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Is the Prime Minister aware that I have been a member of the National Union of Mineworkers for 40-odd years, and that is all I need? I am proud of the fact that that union has served me well. I do not need any of these honours and badges that are talked about. I remind the Prime Minister that no honours system can work in practice. At this very moment there will be people out there doing sterling deeds who will go unnoticed, whose deeds will not get into the public domain and whose names will never reach the ears of politicians, Prime Ministers or Queens of the realm. That is why the wheat can never be sorted from the chaff.

The Prime Minister has admitted today, has he not, that Tory Members of Parliament will become knights, that people will enter the House of Lords, that those newspaper owners who help him out at the general election will finish up in the House of Lords or with knighthoods and that those companies that provide the Tory party with vast sums of money will also get their honours? The whole thing is a sham and it is time that it was ended.

The Prime Minister

I made the point some time ago about people who go unnoticed. We shall open up the nomination system so that, if he wishes, the hon. Gentleman will be able to nominate people in his constituency or elsewhere who may have served the community but who may otherwise not have been noticed. That is one of the purposes of the changes. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not let his constituents down in that respect. He is right to be proud of his long membership of the National Union of Mineworkers, but there is no compulsion to accept honours. Many people deserve them. It gives great pleasure to them and their families to see society honour them for the work that they have done. It is a shame that the hon. Gentleman cannot be open-minded enough to see that other people may welcome and benefit from the system. He should open his closed mind.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

Those who are involved in voluntary service will be delighted by my right hon. Friend's statement today. The allocation of awards to the voluntary military services was based on past numbers available. Any adjustments that are made, therefore, should ensure that more people from the voluntary sector —I can send him names of individuals who have given more than 40 years' service in the voluntary military service—are rewarded properly with an honour than under the present system.

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend should be reassured that that is my intention.

Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin)

Will the Prime Minister confirm that since 1979 more than 100 Tory Members have been given knighthoods? One of the explanations for the way in which his predecessor was tipped over was that so many Tory Members had knighthoods that they felt they had nothing to lose. Will he further confirm that the chairmen and managing directors of the top 200 companies are twice as likely to receive honours if they donate money to the Tory party? Does he acknowledge that if the honours system had any justification, which many Labour Members doubt, it would be as a system to reward those who are not rewarded by the normal means in this country? The current system gives to those who have it already, and it is time that we reversed the balance.

The Prime Minister

I disagree with almost everything that the hon. Gentleman said. I thought that I detected in his early remarks the smell of sour grapes. On awards to business men, I refer again to the independent scrutiny of the Honours Scrutiny Committee and of the independent committees that recommend honours.

Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East)

My right hon. Friend's statement is very welcome, especially for its greater recognition of voluntary service. Will he closely consider the regional distribution of honours, particularly in medicine, because many achievements in the north have been insufficiently recognised?

The Prime Minister

I am certainly happy to examine that. We need to bear in mind as we do so that we must not introduce a quota system. We must ensure that honours are distributed on merit.

Dr. Tony Wright (Cannock and Burntwood)

A Conservative Member took me to one side the other day to explain the process by which he had become a knight. As the story developed, it transpired that it was a consolation prize for not getting what he really wanted —[HON. MEMBERS: "Name him."] It is tempting, but I shall resist the temptation. Does the Prime Minister understand that the system of political honour corrupts and degrades the honours system, and that it is no good saying that he will continue to give honours to people who deserve them, because the currency of honour has been devalued by that system of political honour? It is a dishonourable system.

The Prime Minister

That is copper-plated nonsense. As for the discussion to which the hon. Gentleman referred, clearly he must have asked how to receive an honour.

Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)

My right hon. Friend's announcement on the abolition of the distinction between the MBE and the BEM is entirely welcome. Will he amplify a little on what he has in mind for gallantry awards? Would it not be true to say that the Military Cross awarded for gallantry and the Military Medal for gallantry may not be the same decoration but that they are an equivalent decoration? That is understood by the armed forces whose members receive them. Is my right hon. Friend entirely satisfied that the case has been made for abolishing the distinction between them?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the early part of his remarks. I examined the substantive part of his question very carefully with my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, and it is our view and that of the armed forces chiefs that it right to abolish the distinction.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Does not the Prime Minister understand that the retention of the honours system maintains the division of a class-ridden society which he is supposed to be dedicated to ending? Is not the reality behind the retention of political honours—the most corrupt section—that he cannot afford to get rid of them because of the Tory party's cash crisis? Is it not outrageous that the one section of honours which is to operate automatically is that of the judiciary, whose members are among the best paid of all public servants? Is it not enough that people should do a good job at work or in the community? Should not that be sufficient reward, without people crawling around the Prime Minister for some recognition?

The Prime Minister

For many people the answer is yes, it is sufficient reward. That is why the voluntary system in honours is so important—no one is required to accept an honour. Honours give great pleasure and satisfaction, and I believe that it is right for society generally to show its respect for people who have made a particular contribution. That is why we have the voluntary system; it is why the honours system has survived for so long and is so widely supported.

I understand what lies behind the hon. Gentleman's rejection of the honours system, but I suggest that he is wrong. There are millions of people in this country who perform voluntary or other services and who are delighted to see those among their number who have performed particular service receive recognition of that fact.

Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, despite the amalgamation of the BEM and the MBE, there will still be more people worthy of an MBE than there are awards currently available? Does he accept that with the new emphasis on voluntary service it might perhaps be better to establish a new mark of recognition with that particular flavour?

The Prime Minister

I considered whether one should produce a new mark of recognition, especially for voluntary service, but I decided on balance that it was better not to introduce a new honour into the system, but, at an appropriate level, to use the honours system that already exists. I agree with my hon. Friend that many people in the voluntary sector, and beyond, merit an honour. What I hope will come about as a result of today's statement is that more of the best of those people will be nominated for and then receive such an honour.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

As the son of a man awarded the Military Medal for what I think was called bravery in the field, I welcome the sweeping away of the invidious distinction that has existed for far too long between officers and the men and women in the military ranks. To judge by the content of the right hon. Gentleman's statement, may we assume that in respect of civil honours we shall never again see the award of a knighthood to an editor who, in his newspaper, slavishly follows this disreputable Government?

The Prime Minister

I am tempted to say, "Name them." On the hon. Gentleman's first point, I am grateful for his remarks about the removal of the distinction in gallantry awards. I think that it will be very widely welcomed in the armed forces and far beyond them.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (Norfolk, North-West)

Is the Prime Minister aware that today's announcement will go down very well in rural areas such as Norfolk where often the chairman of the parish council will receive an MBE but the clerk, who is equally hard-working, will receive a BEM? That is clearly archaic and a cause of confusion. Can the Prime Minister confirm that all those people who were awarded a BEM in the past will almost certainly get an MBE in the future?

The Prime Minister

Yes, it is the intention that people who in the past would have been recommended for a British Empire Medal will in future be recommended for an MBE.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

Does the Prime Minister not agree that in the specific case of the House, the privilege of membership is in itself a great and sufficient reward? Can the Prime Minister explain why, if the system has not been corrupted, every hack, obedient, lickspittle Tory Member has received his knighthood—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."]

Madam Speaker

Order. Mr. Flynn, that is an unparliamentary word, which I cannot accept. [Interruption.] Order. I know that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw that word.

Mr. Flynn

I withdraw the word "lickspittle", Madam Speaker. I ask the Prime Minister to explain why all the obedient, mediocre, talentless Tory Members of Parliament who have gone obediently through the Lobbies for years have had their knighthoods, whereas other Tory Members who have served their time have not had the offer. Those who have not had knighthoods are people of talent, but they also happen to be people of independent mind.

The Prime Minister

I am not sure whether my honourable and independent minded Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) would agree with the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Roger Evans (Monmouth)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that long service deserves special recognition in the case of the Labour party? Will he recommend the creation of a new order, perhaps called the Pink Elephant, with several classes and an hereditary aspect, for persons recommended by the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Liberal Democrats?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend gives me a further matter to consider after the review in the summer.

Several hon. Members


Madam Speaker

Order. On that note, we shall move on. I have a short statement to make to the House.