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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 December, 2003, 15:38 GMT
Leak reveals honours snubs
LS Lowry
LS Lowry reportedly turned down five awards including a knighthood
A secret list of 300 top figures who have refused knighthoods, CBEs and other awards has been revealed.

Singer David Bowie and comedy duo Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders are among those who have refused honours, according to leaked Whitehall files.

Bowie turned down a CBE in the Queen's birthday honours of 2000 while French and Saunders refused OBEs for "services to comedy" a year later.

An inquiry to find the Whitehall mole who leaked the papers is underway.

Thousands of medals are given out in the name of a non-existent empire - it makes us look a laughing stock and encourages deference to the crown
JG Ballard
The 400 page file, covering all those who have rejected honours offered by prime ministers on behalf of the Queen since the Second World War, was revealed by the Sunday Times newspaper.

Reasons for refusal are not recorded.

More than 40 of the refusals rejected honours from the government of Tony Blair.

'Preposterous charade'

The list is reportedly compiled by the ceremonial branch of the Cabinet Office to warn officials that those who have refused honours should not be approached again.

One of the most recent "refuseniks" JG Ballard, author of Empire of the Sun, said he turned down a CBE this year for "services to literature" because he was opposed to the "preposterous charade" of the honours system.

He told the Sunday Times: "Thousands of medals are given out in the name of a non-existent empire. It makes us look a laughing stock and encourages deference to the crown.

"I think it is exploited by politicians and always has been."

Albert Finney - actor
Vanessa Redgrave - actress
LS Lowry - painter
Michael Frayn - playwright
Frank Auerbach - artist
Richard Lambert - former Financial Times editor
Painter LS Lowry turned down more honours than anybody else with a total of five including a knighthood, CBE and OBE, according to the newspaper.

Other names in the "refusals" documents, which are not even released under the usual 30-year rule for government papers, include celebrity cook Nigella Lawson, children's author Roald Dahl and actor Kenneth Branagh.

Up to one in five "refuseniks" subsequently accepted an honour including film director Alfred Hitchcock who turned down a CBE in 1962 before accepting a knighthood shortly before his death, according to the newspaper.

And Dawn French's husband Lenny Henry accepted an honour from Mr Blair having refused one from his predecessor John Major.

A Downing Street spokesman said on Sunday he would not comment on issues relating to leaked documents.

Many of these people are already overpaid for what they do
Stuart, Preston

But a probe is already being conducted after a leak of the internal minutes from the main honours committee published by the Sunday Times last weekend.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said on Sunday: "There will be an investigation to trace the source of this leak."

'Colonial brutality'

Few of those who have rejected honours have gone public to explain their stand.

But black poet Benjamin Zephaniah said he rejected the offer of an OBE last month because he believes it stands for colonial brutality and slavery.

He said the honour's title, Order of the British Empire, gives an impression of white supremacy saying he had been "fighting against the legacy of empire" all his life.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono
John Lennon returned his MBE four years after receiving it
Late Beatles legend John Lennon was perhaps the highest profile figure to reject an honour.

He returned his MBE four years after accepting it in 1965.

In a note accompanying the gong, he wrote: "Your Majesty, I am returning this in protest against Britain's involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam, and against Cold Turkey slipping down the charts. With love. John Lennon of Bag."

Last month it was revealed ministers were considering changes to the system after complaints that too few women and people from ethnic minorities were getting gongs.

Stones frontman becomes Sir Mick
12 Dec 03  |  Entertainment
Black poet spurns OBE
27 Nov 03  |  UK
Honours 'elite' raises concerns
24 Nov 03  |  Politics


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