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Theresa May will not 'interfere' over David Cameron resignation honours list

Published 01/08/2016

The leaking of David Cameron's resignation honours list has sparked a cronyism row
The leaking of David Cameron's resignation honours list has sparked a cronyism row

Prime Minister Theresa May will not interfere with the official process of approving her predecessor David Cameron's resignation honours list despite allegations of cronyism, Downing Street has said.

Following a leak of the list, o pposition MPs demanded a complete overhaul of the system after it was claimed the former PM is pushing to reward personal aides, political donors and senior figures on the losing Remain campaign.

Mrs May was under pressure to intervene but a spokeswoman said the new premier would not interfere in decisions of the honours committees, which are independent of No 10.

"It is standard for an outgoing prime minister to submit a resignation list," the spokeswoman said.

"The names on the list were at the former prime minister's discretion, and they will now go through all the proper processes and committees.

"It would set a very bad precedent for a new prime minister to interfere in the official processes."

The cronyism row was sparked by reports that Mr Cameron had recommended knighthoods for four pro-EU cabinet colleagues - Philip Hammond, Michael Fallon, Patrick McLoughlin and David Lidington.

Mr Cameron also requested a Companion of Honour award for George Osborne, who was dismissed as chancellor by Prime Minister Theresa May, according to the Sunday Times.

Will Straw, head of the failed official pro-Remain campaign, was proposed for a CBE, and more than 20 Downing Street staff were recommended for awards, according to the report.

Among those reported to be recommended for OBEs is Isabel Spearman, who helped Samantha Cameron with her diary and outfits for various engagements.

It was also claimed Mr Cameron recommended knighthoods for major Tory donors Ian Taylor and Andrew Cook.

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said Mr Cameron's bid to reward his friends presented the worst of the "old boys' network", adding: " That Mr Cameron proposes to reward his friends network on such a huge scale will not only bring the honours system into disrepute, it will undermine the reputation of the Theresa May."

But Conservative former minister Desmond Swayne, who was previously Mr Cameron's parliamentary private secretary, said an honours list was a "relatively light way" of paying off "debts of honour".

Nominations for honours are reviewed by honours committees, which include senior civil servants and people judged to be independent of Government .

Each committee has a majority of independent members, with one of them chairing discussions, and reviews nominations for specific activities such as sport or arts and media, according to the Government.

A No 10 representative is invited to attend all meetings.

The individual committees feed into the main honours committee, which then produces a list and its decisions go to the Prime Minister and then the Queen - who bestows the honour.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he wanted to see an honours system that was "fair and more democratic".

He said he did not believe serving politicians should receive honours because being an MP was an honour in itself.

He told a meeting of the Communication Workers Union that he would be asking Labour's executive to consider the issue in the future.

"I do recognise there are people who work incredibly hard in society, in community organisations, who should be honoured.

" I want to see a more democratic form," he said.

Mr Watson called for resignation honours to be abolished.

He told BBC Radio 4's World At One programme: "I would abolish resignation honours and I think the significance of this list, the reason it's causing so much difficulty is that Desmond Swayne, a former minister, has let the cat out of the bag today.

"He said this is a way for David Cameron to pay his political debts to his allies. Look, the honours system isn't supposed to be like that, is it? It's supposed to reward unprecedented public service."

Conservative MP Tania Mathias said some of the names reported to be on Mr Cameron's list must be explained.

She told the same programme: "If my non-political friends have to ask why somebody gets an honour that makes me nervous.

"And the contrast is when people in the community have had honours, nobody ever asks why - it's usually 'Wow, how amazing and well-deserved'.

"So that part of the honours system I would want to keep because it's so precious."

The Twickenham MP added: "The contrast is this questioning that is coming up today and that makes me sad for politics."

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