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Monday, 17 June, 2002, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Donor's knighthood 'undermines system'
Gulam Noon
'Curry King' Mr Noon has received a knighthood
The decision to knight a curry magnate who donated more than 100,000 to the Labour Party undermines the whole honours system, a Labour MP has claimed.

Jeremy Corbyn said he was "very disturbed" by Gulam Noon's knighthood and that awards should not be given to people "who can afford to gain some publicity by large donations".

Leader of the Commons Robin Cook and Sir Gulam himself denied the title was linked to his political activities, insisting that it was given in recognition of his business success.

But Conservative Central Office said the Tories would "continue to scrutinise the list of honours carefully because of Labour's previous record on rewarding high-value donors through political honours".

Also knighted in the Queen's Birthday Honours list on Saturday were rock star Mick Jagger and former England manager Bobby Robson, while playwright Harold Pinter received the rare Companion of Honour.

The government courted further controversy with a CBE for Brian Cass, the managing director of Huntingdon Life Sciences, which has attracted fierce opposition for its experiments on animals.

'Community spirit'

Mr Corbyn told BBC Radio Four's Today programme that he was unhappy about Sir Gulam's knighthood.

He said: "It seems to me that those who make large donations to any political organisation who then subsequently receive major honours rather devalues the whole honours system.

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn wants honours to favour the voluntary sector
"There are many people in this country putting in enormous effort in community spirit and get no recognition for it at all.

"I would have thought public awards ought to be for them."

Sir Gulam, who turned a family business into a multi-million pound food empire, told the programme he was delighted with the honour.

But insisting it was unconnected to his support for the Labour Party he said: "All sorts of people have given donations to political parties - all political parties.

"I have helped to create a unique industry and I like to think I have received this honour on merit."

'Family business'

The honour was approved by an independent cross-party panel of peers, officials at Number 10 said.

Committee member and Liberal Democrat peer Lord Thomson praised the government for passing legislation that "brings all these political donations out into the open".

"So what has to be decided is whether, quite apart from people making political donations, which in a free society it's entitled to anybody to give financial support to the party of their choice," he said.

"It's whether their other activities entitle them to the honour that's being recommended for them. And in this particular case we had no doubt whatever."


He has been given it because he's built up a small family business into a multi-million pound business

Robin Cook

Sir Gulam was named in the Queen's Birthday Honours list after approval by the Honours Scrutiny Committee, including Conservative peer and former foreign secretary Lord Hurd, Labour's Baroness Dean and Liberal Democrat Lord Thomson.

They agreed that Sir Gulam deserved his honour for his contribution to British business.

Robin Cook told the Today programme the committee would not have allowed the knighthood to be awarded for political donations.

Mr Cook said: "He has been given it because he's built up a small family business into a multi-million pound business, creating hundreds of jobs along the way."

Football glory

Sir Bobby, 69, who took the England team to the 1990 World Cup semi-finals, said he was delighted with his knighthood.

He said: "This is a recognition not only of my career, but of the wonderful people in the world of football with whom I have worked for more than 50 years."

Journalist Max Hastings was also knighted, while Author Sebastian Faulks received a CBE and actor David Suchet an OBE.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Sir Gulam Noon
"I like to think I've received this on merit"
Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn
"I'm very disturbed by the way this knighthood has been awarded"
Leader of the Commons Robin Cook
"Nobody should get an honour because they made a political donation"

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25 May 02 | UK Politics
23 Feb 02 | UK Politics
07 Aug 01 | UK Politics
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