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Honour list with a twist

London, Dec. 15: Whitehall officials may be asked to explain a leaked memo suggesting that Tim Henman is being included in the New Year’s honours list merely to “add interest”.

The document, which provides unprecedented information about the apparently arbitrary way in which some honours are awarded, is expected to be studied in detail by the Commons public administration committee. It is currently investigating the honours system as part of its inquiry into the operation of ministerial patronage.

The leaked memo records the decisions taken by some of Britain’s most senior civil servants at a meeting on October 17, when they considered names for inclusion in the forthcoming New Year’s honours list. Several Whitehall committees recommend candidates for honours, but the minutes record the deliberations of the main body, chaired by Sir Andrew Turnbull, the cabinet secretary, that takes the final decisions.

The document, which was leaked to a Sunday newspaper, shows that Sir Andrew’s committee was unhappy with the sports figures originally proposed for the honours.

Under the heading “Sport”, it says: “The committee noted all of the OBE candidates were aged 50. They believed the list lacked recognisable names.

“Although the experts on the sport committee had advised against taking Henman at present, the committee believed he should be taken now to add interest to the list.”

Although the meeting took place before England’s victory in the rugby union World Cup, the committee advised that if the team won, Clive Woodward, the coach, should be given a CBE.

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