The Prime Minister's resignation list: is it business as usual?

1 August 2016

Details of David Cameron’s resignation honours list, which includes advisers and Downing Street staff, have been published by the Sunday Times.

Some have criticised the list of 48 names as evidence of ‘cronyism’, while Downing Street has reportedly said “It is standard for an outgoing prime minister to submit a resignation list”.

‘Resignation honours’ are not new, but are often controversial. The Constitution Unit at UCL observes that “It has become an established convention that a departing Prime Minister should be able to leave such appointments for his or her successor”. In theory, it says, the sitting Prime Minister can refuse a list if he or she wants to.

Only a small number of Prime Ministers in the last 50 years have issued such a list, but it’s actually quite common with Prime Ministers who leave office mid-term – Tony Blair is the only recent exception.

The last actual list of resignation honours was published in 1997 under Tony Blair, based on recommendations from the previous Prime Minister, John Major. Tony Blair didn’t issue any list when he left office amidst the ‘cash for honours’ row, and Gordon Brown recommended a dissolution list—mainly for peerages given to MPs—in 2010.

Appointments are considered by an honours committee and awarded by the Queen. Being a donor to a political party, for example, is something that has been checked in the past, although on its own this isn’t grounds to disqualify someone from receiving an honour.

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