No one could defend the stifling corporatism that has penetrated our political system. As such, Bernard Jenkin and the rest of the public administration select committee are right to be calling for the secretive honours system to be opened up to scrutiny. However, the committee is wrong to suggest that business people don’t deserve to be honoured for simply “doing the day job”. Consider our most successful living businessman, Sir Richard Branson. Like most wealthy and successful company leaders, he gives plenty to charity, including to his own. However, even if he had never given away a penny, the value that his genius and hard work has created would be deserving of official honour. Yes, we should make sure that all recipients are truly deserving; but as long as we have a system for honouring success, business people should be celebrated alongside the rest of society for all they contribute to the wealth of our nation.
Philip Salter is business features editor at City A.M.
Our report on the honours system concludes that honour should recognise exceptional service to the nation rather than just doing the “day job”. This was a persistent concern among witnesses before our inquiry. It is distasteful for people who already command vast remuneration packages for doing their job to be honoured for simply being at the helm of large companies. Our concern is that others without fame or wealth are often overlooked in favour of the “usual suspects”. Ordinary people who support their communities should be recognised. Our central recommendation is for an independent Honours Commission to remove any suspicion that honours are used by politicians to reward their supporters, and to abolish the so-called “Prime Minister’s list”. Then people will know that businessmen who are honoured are deserving.
Bernard Jenkin is MP for Harwich and North Essex and Chairman of the public administration select committee