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Dame Caroline Spelman sidesteps row about David Cameron resignation honours

Dame Caroline Spelman has spoken of her gratitude towards David Cameron for nominating her for an honour but would not comment on accusations of cronyism levelled at her former boss.

The former environment secretary was made a Dame Commander in Mr Cameron's resignation honours list last summer which was criticised for recognising a string of political supporters, Conservative Party donors and Downing Street staff.

Dame Caroline, who was secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs from May 2010 to September 2012, received her award from the Prince of Wales during a Buckingham Palace investiture ceremony.

When asked about the criticisms of Mr Cameron's list, she replied: "It's not for me to comment, it's his choice and I'm very grateful to him for remembering me in his resignation honours."

Also recognised were two other individuals from the former prime minister's resignation list - Sir Craig Oliver, his former director of communications at Downing Street, who was knighted by Charles, and Isabel Spearman, hair stylist to Samantha Cameron, who was awarded an OBE.

The pair had both indicated before the investiture ceremony they did not want to comment to the press.

In his resignation honours list Mr Cameron created 13 Tory life peers giving the Tories 207 - one more than Labour.

Tory treasurer Andrew Fraser, and political aides Gabrielle Bertin and Camilla Cavendish who both worked at Number 10, were all given peerages.

Knighthoods were given to Cabinet minister Michael Fallon and former ministers Oliver Letwin and Hugo Swire, while former chancellor George Osborne became a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour.

At the time of the announcement last summer Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: "David Cameron's resignation honours list is so full of cronies it would embarrass a medieval court."

While Mr Cameron's former policy guru Steve Hilton also criticised the list, branding it a ''serious type of very British corruption'' and a "symptom of a corrupt and decaying democracy''.

Dame Caroline - who is the Second Church Estates Commissioner, the Church's representative in the House of Commons - praised Mr Cameron for steering the economy through the difficult period after the financial crisis.

She said: "I thought he achived a remarkable thing, together with George Osborne, stabilising the economy in those coalition years.

"Again, people didn't give the coalition much chance, did they, but it saw its full time, working with the Liberal Democrats. And I think the history books will reflect on that well."

Speaking about becoming a Dame Commander, she added: "I was just a little girl who grew up in an Essex village for 18 years and I have to pinch myself.

"I'm just thinking of my parents, who gave me a good start, and all those people who have helped me along the way."

Dame Caroline said that during her brief chat with the Prince of Wales they talked about the environment: "He mentioned his concern for tree health - so am I - and it's because with climate change more diseases are coming to this country.

"He was pleased I was still in Parliament and still campaigning for the environment and combining it with church commissioner."

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