People from Northern Ireland are less likely to be given a knighthood because of a need to demonstrate the national impact of their work, a powerful committee of MPs has been told.
However, Northern Ireland is seen as “punching above its weight” in the honours system when it comes to handing out MBEs and OBEs.
The Public Administration select committee has called for an overhaul of the honours system after hearing evidence in London yesterday on the regional differences it can throw up.
Lord-Lieutenant David Lindsay, the Queen's representative in Co Down, submitted evidence to the committee, saying civil servants are being handed honours simply for doing their day job.
Speaking of his “dismay” at so many public sector nominations, he said: “It is simply not right that someone gets an honour for doing the job they were paid for.”
Mr Lindsay's comments were made to the committee of MPs which criticised the honours system as “opaque”, saying that gongs were being given to “the usual suspects”.
It said public servants and celebrities were still being favoured ahead of local community champions, and called for an overhaul of the system.
The committee found that people from devolved administrations such as Northern Ireland were less likely to be given a knighthood as they had to demonstrate the “national impact” of their work across the UK, which is less likely with devolution.
The MPs agreed with calls to change the “clearly unfair” rules, urging the Government to act.
However, the MPs also said that Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales were punching above their weight in receiving the MBE and OBE, which recognise local and regional impact.
A 2008 report found that Northern Ireland recipients made up 5.6% of that year's Queen's Birthday Honours list, more than the proportion of the UK's population that it makes up.
The committee set out a number of proposals to reform the system to reduce the influence of politicians and civil servants, including calling for an independent Honours Commission to be set up and a rebalance of the honours awarded between the public and private sector.
More detail should also be published as to why honours have been awarded, they said.
The MPs’ report does not |address the issue of whether Team GB and Northern |Ireland's Olympic heroes should all be honoured. A controversial quota system appeared to limit the number of awards that could be made to sports stars each year. However, Downing Street has since suggested that no such quota would be imposed.