Gongs for pair Three clients of a who sit on panel single agent honoured
‘Should declare an interest’
THE tainted honours system was in the dock again last night after it emerged that two top awards went to people sitting on the very committees which hand them out.
Kanya King, founder of a major music awards ceremony, and engineer Naomi Climer both received CBEs.
And three honours went to clients of a literary agent who sits on one of the decision-making honours committees.
These include historian Simon Schama, who was knighted, and author Jeanette Winterson, who was given a CBE.
Last week’s Queen’s Birthday Honours were dubbed ‘rewards for failure’ after Mark Carne, the outgoing boss of Network Rail, received a CBE amid travel chaos for millions of commuters.
The honours system has also regularly been criticised for rewarding political donors and cronies with peerages.
Last night the Cabinet Office admitted that two of last week’s recipients sat on the committees which recommended them for awards. But a spokesman insisted they had not been involved in the discussions about their own awards.
All honours are first considered by one of nine sub-committees before going on to be considered by the main honours committee.
Miss King, the founder of the Mobo (Music of Black Origin) Awards, is one of six independent members of the arts and media committee, which recommends who from the entertainment world should receive honours. Last week it was announced she had received a CBE for ‘services to music and culture’.
Miss Climer, trustee of the Institute for Engineering and Technology, also received a CBE for ‘services to the engineering profession’. She sat on the science and technology committee, which recommends people for awards from this sector.
It also emerged that three authors and academics who received awards were represented by a literary agent who sits on the arts and media committee. She is Caroline Michel, chief executive of the Peters Fraser and Dunlop literary agency.
They included Miss Winterson, whose novels include Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, and academic Dr Gus CaselyHayford, who received an OBE.
It is likely that both these awards were considered by the arts and media committee, on which Miss Michel sits.
Historian Simon Schama, whom she also represents, received a knighthood.
However, it is understood that this award – which was given for his reputation as an academic rather than as a broadcaster – was considered by the separate education committee, and not Miss Michel’s committee.
A spokesman for the Cabinet Office said systems are in place to ensure committee members are not involved in decisions regarding themselves or professional colleagues. The rules state that people should declare an interest if they have a professional relationship with a potential recipient.
And if a committee member is put forward for an award, they are not involved in any discussions regarding the case – and should not even know their case is being discussed.
The Cabinet Office spokesman said: ‘ Recognising that independent committees are composed of experts in their sectors, and inevitably have professional associations with nominees from time to time, we have a full process in place where declarations of interest are concerned. Where necessary, candidates are considered out of committee, to ensure that the honours nomination process remains confidential, robust and transparent. This is the case if serving committee members are nominated for service falling within the remit of the committee on which they serve.’
Miss Climer and Miss Michel declined to comment. Miss King said: ‘I was totally unaware of my nomination and any suggestion otherwise is ridiculous.’
WHY is the British State so tolerant of returning jihadis who fought for our enemies in Syria and Iraq and yet seems determined to punish former servicemen who have served Queen and country?
Its indulgence of British jihadis can scarcely be doubted. Security Minister Ben Wallace told MPs on Tuesday that only 40 out of 400 have been prosecuted on their return home.
They were told not to go to Syria. And as recently as December, the Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, called for British jihadis to be hunted down and killed in the Middle East. He said no Briton who had gone to fight in Syria or Iraq should ever be allowed back here.
That was, of course, an absurd thing to say. Mr Williamson must know we can’t bump off all jihadis in the Middle East, even if that were thought desirable, and there is little we can do about them once they have sneaked back into the country.
Believe it or not, one of them, who returned from the frontline in Syria, has even been given a council flat and cheerfully delivers takeaways on his motorcycle. His sole sanction is the confiscation of his British passport, which means he can’t leave the country. Most people will think he should never have been allowed back in.
But that, alas, is not possible because our Government — unlike Australia’s — has not sought powers to punish citizens for the act of travelling abroad to fight for our enemies. Only if clear evidence of wrongdoing is obtainable can returning jihadis be prosecuted.
As the MP John Woodcock aptly puts it: ‘It is an affront to our country that the difficulty of amassing admissible evidence means there is no comeuppance for people who went to aid an evil regime that wanted to slaughter British citizens.’
Some of these former killers may have learned the errors of their ways, and pose no threat to society. Even so, it is insufferable that hundreds of them (more are coming back) shouldn’t face any retribution for their wrongdoing.
We should be more alarmed by those who feel no regret for their actions and intend to carry on the fight on British soil. Sooner or later one or more of them, I fear, will be responsible for an atrocity against innocent people.
Why is the Government unwilling to introduce legislation to punish this country’s enemies? Is it a case of straightforward incompetence? Or are ministers wary of doing anything that might be deemed confrontational in a few unrepresentative sections of the Muslim community?
Whatever the explanation, there is a disgraceful contrast between the Government’s relaxed indulgence of returning jihadis and its near-persecution of former soldiers who have served in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Needless to say, where there is solid proof servicemen behaved illegally, prosecution should follow. But, in very many cases, those who have already been cleared, sometimes several times, are still being pursued by the authorities.
What does it say about Britain? A State that seems utterly blasé about terrorists who could represent a lethal current threat to its citizens nevertheless hounds loyal ex- servicemen who fought for their country ten, 15 or even 40 years ago.
Northern Ireland provides the most discreditable examples. This is partly because the so- called Troubles ended in the last century, and partly because erstwhile Irish terrorists who committed the most terrible atrocities have been given amnesties while soldiers, many now pensioners, are hauled in front of the courts.
Take the case of 75-year-old Dennis Hutchings, who served 26 years in the Life Guards. He has been charged with attempted murder over the death of a man with learning difficulties in Northern Ireland in 1974. Hutchings was with another soldier (now dead) when the victim was shot. Very likely they thought he was a terrorist because he ran away. The other soldier may have discharged the fatal bullet. Hutchings was investigated at the time and cleared, and told again in 2011 the case was closed.
He has kidney failure and has been given two years to live. Nonetheless, he was interrogated by police last year on 25 separate occasions, 11 of them on one day. Is this any way to treat a man who served this nation for quarter of a century, and has already been absolved?
There is a similar case involving two unidentified former paratroopers who are being prosecuted over the death of an IRA terrorist commander in 1972. Despite each of them being told twice that they would not face prosecution, they both face trial, probably later this year.
Hundreds of retired soldiers now in their 60s and 70s could be charged over acts committed in Northern Ireland nearly half a century ago when they were callow, nervous young men — many of them from deprived backgrounds — who were suddenly thrown into a bewildering and dangerous situation.
Isn’t it shaming that the Government should have recently announced that it has abandoned the idea of an amnesty for former soldiers after objections from Sinn Fein and the DUP, the latter of which is, of course, propping up the Tories at Westminster.
It’s obvious why Sinn Fein (once the political wing of the IRA) wants ex-British soldiers targeted. The DUP’s motives are less cynical. It fears that a so-called statute of limitation for ex-servicemen would spare former IRA terrorists. And the Tories dare not upset the DUP at the moment.
Yet the fact remains that some IRA terrorists were pardoned in the 1998 Good Friday peace deal, while a large number were among the recipients of 187 ‘letters of comfort’ issued by Tony Blair’s government guaranteeing that they would never be prosecuted.
It seems there is one law — or lack of law — for terrorists, whether they be of the Northern Irish variety or returning jihadis, and an altogether stricter and less forgiving version for brave men who faithfully serve the British Crown.
What is true of Northern Ireland remains true of Iraq. Admittedly, hundreds of bogus allegations against former British servicemen were ditched in 2016 after the collapse of the ‘ambulance-chasing’ law firm Public Interest Lawyers, and the disgrace of its leading solicitor, Phil Shiner.
But many spurious cases remain active. For example, Major Robert Campbell is being investigated for the eighth time over the death of an Iraqi teenager 15 years ago.
Major Campbell was wounded on active service, and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Shortly after his seventh investigation, he was awarded a decoration, which he has understandably handed back.
What kind of Army hierarchy treats its people in this way? Major Campbell and his colleagues are the victims of a ferocious official body called the Iraq Historical Allegations Team, which is investigating claims of abuse of Iraqi civilians by UK Armed Forces.
Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the law firm Leigh Day is chasing compensation from the British Army for a Taliban bomb-maker and convicted terrorist called Serdar Mohammed. In a court hearing in April, Leigh Day lawyers admitted they were unsure whether their client was alive.
Theresa May pledged in October 2016 that British soldiers would be protected from the ‘industry of vexatious claims that has pursued those who served in previous conflicts’.
They haven’t been. And the British State seems often to be doing its best to emulate the self- seeking, ambulancechasing lawyers.
Why can’t we have a statute of limitation for former servicemen? Why don’t the authorities show them proper respect? And why won’t the Government turn its attention to dangerous traitors returning to our shores?
Simon Schama: Rewarded for academic work Caroline Michel Client 1: TV historian and Remainer was knighted
Naomi Climer Sat on committees that recommended own CBEs
Client 3: OBE for curator Gus Casely-Hayford
Client 2: CBE for writer Jeanette Winterson
Influential author agent