SPICe FAQ- Nominating someone for a UK national honour

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SPICe frequently gets asked for information on how to nominate someone for a UK national honour, such as an OBE. This blog sets out what honours are awarded for and how to nominate someone for an award. Much of the information is taken from Honours section of the Gov.uk website.

What is the honours system?

The honours system recognises people who have made achievements in public life and have committed themselves to serving and helping Britain and its overseas territories.

What sort of things do people get awards for?

People working in all different fields are awarded honours. Some because of their contribution to arts and the media, others for recognition in excellence in sport. Individuals are often nominated because they have made a significant difference to their community or a contribution to the field in which they work.

Honours can recognise achievement; celebrate courage or reward long-term service, often voluntary service.

What are the types of honours?

Knight Commander (KBE) and Dame Commander (DBE), are awarded to people who have made a major contribution at national level. Commander (CBE) is given in recognition of a person’s prominent contribution at a national level, or a leading role at regional level. Officer (OBE) is often awarded to a person who has had a major impact in their field and whose work has made them known nationally.

Member (MBE) is awarded for outstanding service to the local community and the British Empire Medal (BEM) is awarded for service to the local community, including charitable and voluntary work.

The UK Government has published a full list of the different types of honour which are awarded.

Who decides on the type of honour?

There are a number of different honours committees which span different fields. There is, for example, an arts and media committee, a health committee and a diversity and inclusion group.

Each committee is made up of ‘official members’ who are senior civil servants and ‘independent members’ who are people often associated with the sector but who are independent of government. Every committee has a majority of independent members, one of which acts as an independent chairperson.

The sector specific committees report to the main honours committee which makes the final decision on whether someone should be awarded an honour and which honour they should receive.

The committee’s recommendations go to the Prime Minister and then to the Queen, who awards the honour.

How do I nominate someone who lives in the UK?

Anyone can nominate a person for an honour. To do that you will need to give a full description of why you are nominating the person. You can include any evidence you have of recognition your nominee has received for their achievements, for example articles, photos or letters.

The system encourages online nominations and the UK Government website provides guidance on how to write a nomination. You’ll need to provide some basic facts, like the nominee’s age, address and contact details as well as details of the relevant work that they have done. A nomination needs two supporting letters which should be from people who know the nominee and are aware of their contribution.

It is also possible to make a nomination by post or email. To do that a nomination form must be printed and completed and sent to:

Honours and Appointments Secretariat

Cabinet Office

Room G39

1 Horse Guards Road



What happens after the nomination form has been received by the Secretariat?

The person nominating an individual will get an acknowledgement of the nomination, but it may be 12 to 18 months before they hear anything more.

If a nomination is successful, the person nominated will be contacted by the Secretariat before the Honours List is published. At this point the person receiving the honour is able to say whether they wish to accept it. Anyone receiving an honour is expected to keep their award confidential until the Honours List list is published.

The Honours List is published twice a year on 31 December and in mid-June. The 31 December list is known as the New Year Honours List and the June list as the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Are there any other awards for individuals and groups?

Honours are not the only means by which to recognise achievement, service and bravery.

The British Citizen Awards recognise the community contribution which individuals make. These awards are now open for nominations for the July 2020 honours.

The Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 enables a local authority to admit a person as a ‘Freeman’. This is known as ‘Freedom of the City’ and is granted by a specific local authority. It is the greatest civic honour that a local authority can confer. A council must vote, by a two-thirds majority, in favour of conferring the ‘Freedom of the City’ to an individual.

There are a number of awards given in recognition of the work and commitment of volunteers. These include schemes such as the Saltire Awards and the John Muir Award.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service recognises the contribution of volunteer groups in particular and is the highest award given to local volunteer groups in recognition of outstanding community work. Groups across the UK can be nominated if they have two or more volunteer members and have been running for more than three years. To be nominated a group must provide a service to meet a need for the people living in the local community. It’s important that a group be supported, recognised and respected by the local community and the people who benefit from the group’s work.

Russell Cairns

Enquiries Assistant, SPICe

Blog image: Ministry of Defence licensed under Crown Copyright.