Bishop of Salisbury asks Government about changes to the Honours system

On 26th March 2019 Baroness Berridge asked the Government “what plans they have, if any, to review the honours system.” The Bishop of Salisbury, Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, asked a follow-up question:

The Lord Bishop of Salisbury: My Lords, I am not sure that the Minister’s Answer to the original Question* from the noble Baroness was entirely convincing. There is careful screening to check whether somebody might be willing to consider accepting an honour before an application is ever made. That is done by talking to their family, their friends and others involved with them. Therefore, the figure of 2% refusals is entirely unconvincing, and there needs to be a much more careful analysis of what is going on behind the Question in order to deal with the real issue, as is recognised by the questions asked by the House.

Lord Young of Cookham: I take seriously the point made by the right reverend Prelate. People do give reasons for turning down honours; those reasons are not made public. In the letter which my right honourable friend the Prime Minister wrote to my noble friend last year, when this issue was raised, she said that it was “rare” for an honour to be turned down for this reason. But we will try to dig further, in the light of the comments of the right reverend Prelate, and see to what extent this is a real disincentive.


*the question and answers were:

Lord Young of Cookham (Con): My Lords, the honours system is independent of the Government. In recent years, significant progress has been made to ensure that the system is more open and representative, but there is always more that can be done. A number of changes have been made over the past year to review the operation of the system. That work is continuing.


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