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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 July, 2004, 17:34 GMT 18:34 UK
Should the honours system change?
CBE, MBE and OBE medals
An MPs committee say the current honours system is outdated and needs a "radical and systematic overhaul".

They complained that it's secretive, over-complicated and unfairly favours civil servants, diplomats and armed forces.

ASK THE EXPERT
You put your questions to Gordon Prentice MP, a member of the Select Committee which made the honours recommendations, in an interactive forum.

Recommendations include changing the current 16 into four reformed honours instead and removing civil servants from the decision making process.

They also propose that the Order of the British Empire be replaced by an Order of British Excellence as it's inappropriate in today's modern Britain.

What do you think of the Commons Public Administration Committee's proposals? Should it change or just be done away with? What new name would you give the OBE?

This debate has now closed. Thank you for your comments.


Your comments:

SUGGEST A DEBATE
This topic was suggested by Konoka, UK:
Should the honours system be changed, or left the same?
and Nigel Baldwin, UK:
The honours system: Time for a change?

I don't think the honours system should change. Having been born and raised in Hong Kong, which was until recently part of the British Empire, I find the honours system to be traditional and appropriate. Empire or not, it's a part of our collective past, and the system should stay as it is.
B, Boston, MA, USA

I totally agree with this new report. The title of Empire is ridiculous and totally outdated as well as offensive to many people in the UK today. A system based on merit, and not a list for civil servants or diplomats makes us a more meritocratic society.
Celia Lyon, Sandbach

This honours system is laughable, many of them handed out to politicians, civil servants and senior military for doing a job for which they are generously paid. To me OBE stands for Other Buggers Efforts. This sort of outdated system just perpetuates the class system and pomposity which our society would be better off without.
P. Mitchell, Swindon, Wilts

The honours should be kept for citizens who have gone beyond the normal call of duty in their service to the community. It should not be given to the time serving, well connected, who generally get their reward in their pay-packet.
Brian Lucas, Ventnor

They should be renamed Tonys and given to everyone nominated by El Presidente Blair.
Duncan, Salisbury, UK

I would be very sad to see the current honours system being dismantled. Parts of it go back many years and represent the evolution of our history. Add to it by all means in order to continue to stay relevant, but it would be very sad to deny the fact that there was an empire and a knighthood system, which in their times did both good and bad for England and the rest of the world.
Tony, Woking

These awards mean much less than it did in the past
Steve, Toronto, Canada
These awards mean much less than it did in the past, are out of step with the times, and often irrelevant to the effort expended by the recipient, when that recipient is usually doing something that benefits them in their chosen occupation. There are many of us who do our jobs with no hope or expectation of great reward. However, some form of recognition for those who have made a contribution that benefits the country should be in place so I would modernise the system rather than abandon it.
Steve, Toronto, Canada

Whilst I have reservations about the selection procedure, this seems like another case of "change for change's sake". There are many other things that need review/amendment.
David Fenlon, Luton, England

By all means, re-define what deserves being honoured. It's become somewhat of a joke that people who spend half of their lives on the front of magazines can be given honours for doing just so. However, don't get rid of the Knighthood, O.B.E. and C.B.E.. Are we to deny our entire history and culture? There is something very special about it all. If anything is out of date and should be binned, it's the MPs!
Andy, England

The British Empire is long gone, everyone knows that.. but it does not change the fact that it remains a part of our history, for good or bad and the Order of the British Empire is about our culture, history and society and is not something to be ashamed of. Knighthoods can still be modernised while remaining a part of our country.
Alan, Sevenoaks, Kent

I think we should keep them. I'm proud of our history and what the honour system means, but they should be taken away from No 10 and given to an independent body.
Simon Whitehead, Datchet

I think Order of British Excellence would be a great name for the award BUT I disagree with the idea of phasing out titles - instead revise the selection so that ONLY those who have performed 'above and beyond the call of duty' would be rewarded.
David Thomson, Glasgow, Scotland

I think replacing Empire for Excellence is an excellent idea! I understand that people say we should not be ashamed of out imperial past, but I feel this is not the point here. If I were lucky enough to ever received an OBE/MBE/CBE I'd much rather it said Order of British Excellence, which is current, rather than say Order of the British Empire which no longer exists. I also think we should keep knighthoods, but make a person a Knight of the British Realm, rather than a Knight of the British Empire. The British Empire is part of our history and as such should be respected, but it is not something that should be used in contemporary honours.
Richard Collumbell, London, UK

Once again the MPs want change for no apparent reason. If they are adamant that it should be changed, let it be so that ordinary people can make the recommendations for honours to the Queen and then let the list be made without any politicians having a say. No more honours for the "donators to the party". But leave the names of the honours as they are.
Frank, Chesterfield, England

The honours system should be completely overhauled but should be kept in some form. The 'Order of the British Empire' is outdated. I would like to see one modern Order with several grades (including Knights and Dames - and more women should be given the highest honour). Honours should also be given for genuine service to the community and not just because it is 'Buggins Turn' for actors, civil servants and sportspeople.
Peter, Weston-super-Mare

Our honours system is envied in many other countries. It costs the taxpayer nothing but can make the recipients feel like a million dollars. The outdated part is only the secretive selection process.
Alan, Leicester, England

The decision to give people honours seems to be based mainly on how well-known they are or how much they contribute to government coffers. Make the voting public and give the populace a say - let us honour the people that mean most to us. And as for changing 'Empire' to 'Excellence' - what a dreadful idea! Britain still has sovereignty over several far-flung countries. Keep the empire, bin the civil servants.
Gina, UK

Maybe the country would be running a little better if the MPs that we elected spent more time doing there job instead of being members of committees that spend many hours debating pointless changes. The honours system is just a nice way of awarding recognition and should stay as it is. The MPs seem to be the ones who need to be up-dated to fit in to today's modern Britain.
D, York

Changing the name of the honour won't deny the fact that we had an empire
John, UK
My father received an OBE, and I don't think it in the least inappropriate. There are many things in Britain that are perhaps anachronistic today, but they are symptomatic of our history and our traditions. Changing the name of the honour won't deny the fact that we had an empire: are we to be like Cold War Russia, and rewrite our history because we now don't like it?
John, UK

They should go only to minor celebs and friends of the current Prime Minister. A new honour should then be introduced for people who have genuinely achieved something so as not to be devalued by the current bunch of hangers on and attention seeks they currently have to share the award with.
Dan, UK

They changed the House of Lords and now we have a mis-mash that is neither elected nor inherited. They changed the exams for secondary schools and now we have lower standards. This is change for changes sake rather than a needed change. Perhaps the money wasted by this committee on discussing this should have been channelled into education, health or anything else that would benefit the country.
Caron, England

By all means review the honours for the boys system but why change the names. Are MPs so intent on removing our history? The Order of British Excellence sounds like a trophy from a trade organisation.
Ian, England

The committee does not go far enough in its recommendations. It is time that we abolished all civilian honours along with the House of Lords. Many countries work with a single chamber Parliament and there appear to be few good reasons to continue with the ancient system of government used in the UK.
James, Durham, UK

I think the government should stop devaluing our honours system by handing them out to minor celebrities and sports stars. There are countless teachers, doctors and even civil servants who do more for society than Tim Henman or David Beckham ever have. Stop pandering to public opinion and start rewarding real excellence.
George, London

I think the OBE, MBE thing is a complete waste of time and money. I could think of a 1,001 other ways to reward people for their great efforts, the honours system is certainly not one of them - it is rather too political and out of touch with what is really going on in the real world.
Bill, Reading, UK

The honours system is a joke. It is abused by politicians as a system of rewards for favours. And has no-one noticed we no longer have an Empire?
Tony B, England

Changing BE to British Excellence is a very silly idea
Geoff, Cambridge

The honours system is great, there is a bit of mystery and pageantry and it makes people feel better. If the word Empire is a problem (which it is) then awards to the Order of the British Empire should be discontinued and people given awards in one of the other orders of chivalry - I suggest that a lesser grade of the Order of Merit be established. Changing BE to British Excellence is a very silly idea.
Geoff, Cambridge, UK

Have you ever read the whole of the honours lists when they come out, rather than the very narrow synopsis given in the news? There are very many ordinary people rewarded every year for charitable, brave and unstinting contributions to good causes and for honourable things they have done. Every other country has a system for recognising this, why abolish ours? Yes there are a lot of celebrities and politicians needlessly awarded, but it is about having pride in our country and tradition and it is not something we should forget. It is a sad reflection that at less than 40 years old my views about being proud of my country and its great tradition seem to be worth nothing. Tradition and Empire have made this country, it is not always something to be proud of, but what country in history has had an immaculate record?
J, UK

Unfairly favours the armed forces? Unfairly favours those who put their lives on the line for our country? The armed forces do a finer job than the hot air machine that came up with this! I agree honours only for those who serve this country well, but keep this tradition as it is.
A. Sweating, Leicester, UK

Awards to people who get them for doing what they already get paid for (sometimes great amount e.g. Elton John) should be banned. Order of the British Empire is still appropriate in Britain, it is only the rest of the world that it isn't. So since the award is in Britain who cares about the rest of the world? I would doubt if they even cared that much about it.
Don, Yeovil, UK

Change! It should be abolished, it's not a system of recognising achievement - it's a popularity ranking for politicians and celebrities.
Stephen Mortimer, Basingstoke, UK

The honours system is really there to reward people who serve this country. And those people are usually civil servants or members of the armed forces. Yes, they are just doing their jobs, but they chose to do those jobs, which are less well paid than many other more selfish careers.
Alex Duggan, UK

I always thought the word Empire was a bit out of touch with the modern world. Maybe a new system should be introduced using the word Commonwealth, this would then also honour people across the world who deserve acknowledgement and recognition for their services to the world community.
Craig, Cambridge

It looks like the MPs watched the same repeat of Yes! Minister as I did last week. What a truly original proposal┐ I think honours are a good thing, but they should be awarded for massive contributions to society as a whole - simply working in the civil service rather than the private sector for your entire life doesn't warrant such awards. I think the honours system should be opened up to greater public scrutiny. That would have the added benefit of making the awards themselves more significant to the recipients - who could no longer be accused of obtaining them via the sort of Masonic nepotism that the civil service is supposedly rife with.
Andy, St Albans

The honours system has always confused me, that is however, part of its appeal. Changing anything that has existed for a long time will lose much of the magic associated with it.
Adam, UK

Are we really going to change centuries of proud tradition just due to pressure from a jumped-up poet, who refused to accept his honour? Why are we always ashamed and apologetic of the British Empire? Why are other empires in history highly esteemed (notably the Roman Empire) when in fact they have been far more barbaric and unjust? I would limit honours to men and women who have achieved greatness and self-sacrifice, thus notably military figures... and not footballers, pop stars, actors... oh yes, or poets either...
Cliff, Milton Keynes

No. Yet more left wing bunkum from the PC brigade. If they are not given on behalf of the crown, then who? Some corrupt committee? A bent board? Like everything else, the monarch is the best option.
Paul Sealy, Cannock, England




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