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Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019

The 'Empire' in OBE and CBE's may have to go

Reformists have said Empire in OBE, CBE awards reminds of UK's imperial past, writes Vijay Dutt.

india Updated: Dec 25, 2003 21:34 IST
Vijay Dutt
Vijay Dutt

Honours such as CBE and OBE, that have the ring of the Empire in them, could be dumped in favour of an Order of Britain. The Order of the British Empire (OBE) awards, created by King George V, are too closely linked with the imperial past of the country, say reformists.

During his time Britain ruled huge chunks of Africa, the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East and Asia. Now all that is in the past. So a Whitehall review set up by the government has called for the change, which could generate fierce controversy.

It also insists that creating an Order of the Commonwealth could also cause offence. It said that it would offend those who were trying to put Britain's imperial past behind them. The report said: "In so far as the people have to tolerate an Order of the British Empire, an Order of Britain would not create a new problem. It would retain the five levels of honours."
The review has also criticised the present set up, a committee of some distinguished figures who advise Tony Blair on who should be honoured. It pointed out that they are a "predominantly White, male, elderly elite" and demanded the appointment of more diverse membership. "The present committee does not truly reflect the nature of the British society," the report said.
The review, ordered by the former cabinet secretary Sir Richard Wilson, complained that too few honours are given to members of the ethnic minority community. They were only 1.9 per cent of those given an award of CBE or higher in the 2003 New Year's List.

The review also calculated that the odds for a diplomat getting an honour is one in 123 while the odds for a nurse are just one in 20,000. At present there are around 100,000 awardees throughout the world.

First Published: Dec 25, 2003 21:33 IST

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