An insight in to how Queen’s honour nominations are judged

Q: What type of people get Queen’s honours?
A: Queen’s honours are usually given to two types of people. Firstly, those best described as selfless, giving people who give of their time, wealth or expertise for the benefit of others for no direct financial gain. Secondly, those who excel in their chosen field such as eminent doctors, lawyers or entrepreneurs. 
Q: What is the first step in the honours selection process?
A: A person will not be considered for an honour unless a formal nomination, prepared by a third-party, is submitted to the cabinet office. There is no deadline – nominations can be submitted at anytime. To be eligible for consideration, the nominee must still be active in the area for which they are being nominated. 
A minimum of two letters of support must accompany the nomination, we would recommend between 5-15 letters ideally. 
Q: What happens once the nomination arrives at the Cabinet Office?
A: The Honours and Appointments Secretariat completes basic due diligence and consultants with relevant public bodies, regional Lord Lieutenants and government departments as necessary. The nomination is then referred to one of nine specialist honours committees: The arts and media, health, the parliamentary and political service, education, science and technology, economy (which includes business), community, voluntary and local services, sports and state. 
Separate to these groups, a special sub-committee of the main Honours committee, known as the philanthropy committee assess all candidates considered by the honours committees. This ensures that candidates who are major philanthropists are given thorough consideration. 
Q: What is the role of the committees?
A: The individual committees select only the best candidates, who are then assessed by the Main Honours Committee, which is chaired by the Cabinet Secretary. This committee is responsible for making the final recommendations to the Prime Minister. 
Q: Who appoints the committee members?
A: The Cabinet Office invites applications for independent members of the honours committees when vacancies arise. The interview panel then makes a recommendation to the Head of the Civil Service, currently, Sir Bob Kerslake.
Q: Who sits on these committees?
A: The chair of each specialist honours committee is an independent expert. Lord Coe of Ranmore KBE CH, for example, chairs the sport committee. 
The rest of the committee is composed of a mixture of independent experts – for example, fashion designer and business woman Anya Hindmarch MBE (pictured above) is a member of the economy committee. These members are appointed via a public appointments process. Finally, there are “official members”, who are the Permanent Secretaries of the departments. 
Q: How long does the whole process take?
A: Due to the volume of nominations received each year and the care that is taken to assess them; it takes an average of 12 to 24 months for the nomination to make it as far as the Prime Minister’s office and then on to Buckingham Palace. 
Q: Is the process transparent?
A: In a word, yes. While it is true that the process was once shrouded in secrecy, this is not the case today. The process and guidelines on how to prepare a nomination are clearly articulated on the website of the Cabinet Office. There you will also find the names of all members of the Honours Committees, a detailed breakdown of the types of awards and honours (BEM, MBE, OBE, CBE, knighthood etc.) and Honours Lists from previous years.
When considering whether to nominate someone for an honour, look not just at their achievements in the context of others, but at the impact of their life and work, and those deserving recipients will soon stand out – no matter who they are and what they do.  
For an honest opinion of your nominees chances of success call Awards Intelligence now on +44 (0)1444 230130 or email Our experts can also take of your Queen’s honour nomination to save you valuable time and significantly increase the chances of getting a gong.