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Guidance: How the honours system works

Cabinet Office

February 16
00:15 2021

Information Sharing Agreement between National Police Chiefs' Council and CO Honours and Appointments Secretariat

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Memorandum of Understanding between HMRC and Cabinet Office

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How the honours system works

The honours system covers the whole of the UK, and all honours are approved by HM Queen. Anyone can nominate anyone else for an honour. Find out more about how to nominate someone.

The Honours and Appointments Secretariat in the Cabinet Office coordinates the operation of the honours system. It provides administrative support to the independent honours committees which consider nominations.

The Honours and Appointments Secretariat also supports the committee on the grant of honours, decorations and medals (known as the HD Committee). The HD Committee is the policy-making body for the honours system. It gives advice directly to HM Queen about possible changes to the honours system and military medals policy, including considering new awards. Its members are senior officials in the Civil Service and the Royal Household.

An independent sub-committee of the HD Committee called the Advisory Military Sub-Committee considers claims for medallic recognition of past military service.

Membership of the HD Committee:

  • Sir Chris Wormald (chair)
  • Principal Private Secretary to HM Queen
  • Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister
  • Permanent Under-Secretary of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • Permanent Secretary of the Home Office
  • Permanent Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Defence
  • Secretary of the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood

The integrity of the honours system

Honours are given to reward outstanding service and achievement in a given field or area. As part of the nomination process, we try to minimise the risk that prospective candidates have behaved in ways likely to bring the system into disrepute.

Merit checks

Once an honours nomination is submitted to the Honours and Appointments Secretariat in the Cabinet Office, a process of validation is carried out to assess the strength and credibility of the case. Each nomination is handled differently, depending on what the person has been doing. Typically, views will be sought from organisations like:

  • government departments
  • regulatory bodies like the Charity Commission, or organisations that represent professions which are regulated by law
  • HM Lord-Lieutenants, who represent HM Queen around the UK
  • professional organisations, such as business or charitable groups

The time it takes to process a nomination depends on which checks are needed and how easy it is to corroborate the information provided in the nomination form. We aim for all nominations to be fully assessed within one year.

Probity and propriety checks

We protect the integrity of the honours system by carrying out probity checks with a number of government departments, before names are submitted to the Prime Minister and HM Queen for approval.

As part of this vetting process, HM Revenue and Customs may advise the Honours and Appointments Secretariat about any potential risk posed to HM Government and the Crown by honours candidates, by referenc

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