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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 December, 2003, 04:56 GMT
Papers delighted by rugby honours
The newspapers are all delighted that England's World Cup-winning rugby team have been recognised so swiftly in the New Year's Honours list.

"Everyone will applaud the honours for England's rugby squad," says the Sun.

"The decision to honour all England's Rugby World Cup heroes in the New Year's Honours List is absolutely correct," echoes the Mail.

But there are also questions about the honours system as a whole, following controversy after leaks showing the way they are decided.

The Times asks whether the system is getting any less elitist and more transparent under the current government.

It calculates that teachers and black people are more likely to receive honours under Tony Blair than previous prime ministers.

'Harmed' by leaks

However, it adds: "There are suspicions of recycling. Tessa Sanderson gets her third honour in six years today."

And it says that otherwise, moves towards a less elitist honours list appear to have stalled since advances made by the previous Conservative government under John Major.

It believes more people from outside government will be brought in by next year to join the nine deciding committees.

This should help restore faith in an honours system "harmed" by a spate of leaks about their secret machinations, it says.

The Telegraph backs the system of awards, which it says is "unquestionably clear of corrupt influences and in better shape than in years past".

But it adds that with the forthcoming reform of the House of Lords, under which more appointments will be made to the House, the prime minister has plenty more chances to show patronage to his favourites.


The Independent is delighted by the knighthood given to Tim Berners-Lee, the unassuming "father of the world wide web".

But it argues for a complete overhaul of what it calls the "archaic and almost comical" honours system which still favours the military, civil servants, diplomats or members of the royal household over other professions.

It proposes an independent commission, completely separate from the government, with no extra influence for any individuals or any line of work.

"Then, and only then, will the nation unhesitatingly feel ready to respect the system and those who are honoured by it," it says.

'Lord Berners-Lee of Hyperspace'

The Mirror is also interested in Mr Berners-Lee, saying the only complaint it has this year is that he should have been given a peerage.

It suggests he should be called Lord Berners-Lee of Hyperspace, if he ever gets one.

The Guardian thinks it has scented a new controversy - that Godric Smith, a close aide to the prime minister involved in the outing of Dr David Kelly, was appointed a CBE just days before the Hutton inquiry reports into the affair.

The paper quotes Lib Dem party chairman Matthew Taylor as saying that "at best, this looks like a misjudgement".

But Downing Street said Mr Smith was being recognised for a "distinguished civil service career over a long period".

Peerage questions

It also notes that at least two former Times editors - Harold Evans and Simon Jenkins - have become Sirs, and says editorship of the paper can now be seen as an automatic passport to a knighthood.

The Mail - whose cartoonist, Mac, has become an MBE - also believes it has a controversy on its hands.

Mr Blair has delayed announcing his list of new working peers, it says, which although technically separate from the New Year Honours, are normally unveiled at the same time.

The paper believes an announcement of 20 new Labour peers has been delayed to avoid allegations of cronyism from overshadowing Wednesday's honours.



Inventor of the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee Sir WWW
Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the world wide web, is knighted

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