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'Nothing wrong with our imperial honours system'

By Brentwood Gazette  |  Posted: May 16, 2012

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THE lord-lieutenant of Essex has launched an impassioned defence of the UK honours system following suggestions that awards such as CBE, OBE and MBE be renamed.

Lord Petre, the owner of Ingatestone Hall, spoke out this week after three of his counterparts told a parliamentary committee that the word 'empire' should be dropped from the names of these medals.

Appearing before the Commons public administration select committee, the lords-lieutenant of Cheshire, Cumbria and Clackmannanshire, described the use of the word as "anachronistic and inappropriate" in the post-colonial, multicultural 21st century.

Indeed, Sir James Cropper, who holds the post in Cumbria, went so far as to say there should be a title "more meaningful for the present times, such as the Queen's Commonwealth Medal or Queen's Medal for Service.

However, Lord Petre, 69, who has been the Queen's official representative in Essex since 2002, respectfully disagrees.

He said: "If I am told that people from former empire countries are upset by it then I have to accept that, but it doesn't particularly upset me and, that being so, I don't see the need for change.

"It would just confuse people."

The peer, who as lord-lieutenant advises the monarch on who should be awarded honours, added: "I would rather a way was found to make it more certain that deserving people are recognised than messing about with what the awards are called.

"I don't for a moment think that the Knights of the Order of the Bath attend Her Majesty when she is doing her ablutions."

Lord Petre, who had been invited to appear before the select committee but could not find time in his diary, said he does not suffer from tradition paralysis but admitted that he is sometimes sceptical of change.

"I often think change is used as a weapon by those who want it for change's sake," he said.

"I am quite happy to be categorised as someone who views change with a very wary eye because I think it is totally reasonable."

The chairman of the public administration committee, Harwich and North Essex MP Bernard Jenkin, said he was sorry that Lord Petre was unable to find time to give oral evidence.

However, he added: "I should be delighted to circulate any comments that Lord Petre has made to the committee."

What do you think? Should the word empire be dropped from the names of the awards?

E-mail editorial@gazette news.co.uk or write to Brentwood Gazette, Media Centre, Westway, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 3BE.

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  • Rhollamby  |  May 16 2012, 3:28PM

    I am with Lord Petre on this. I don't think it matters what the honours are called - I am of the view that in many cases these honours are awarded to civil servants pretty much for length of service, to disgraceful individuals for them to wear as a badge of respectability, and to some who are self-promoters for them to further feel superior and to brag about. The awards themselves have become somewhat debased over the years in my opinion, and I would like to see the honours restored to their former glory. I myself am still waiting to be publicly recognised by Her majesty but if, as and when I am, I won't care whether the honour contains an Imperial reference or not. And if I don't like it I don't have to accept it. It's a public recognition but a personal matter between Her Majesty and the recipient ... isn't it? It's not a political tool.

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