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100 years ago: Honours for sale?

by
22 July 2022

July 21st, 1922.

THE question of honours has taken up a good deal of time in both Houses this week. It is remarkable that so shrewd a man as the Prime Minister should have opened his apology with a gibe at the recurrence of the agitation, and at the persistence which has maintained a protest for thirty or forty years. For his gibe laid him open to the obvious retort that protest is maintained because the scandal continues and nothing is done to abate it. He went on to say that previous charges have been refuted. Not all of them. Let Mr Lloyd George, with the help of Hansard, recall the last occasion, in November, 1917, when the question was raised in Parliament. He will not venture to say that the charges then made by Lord Loreburn and Lord Selborne, and supported by them with specific instances, were met with any serious refutation, nor is it altogether forgotten that on that occasion Lord Curzon cynically defended the system which has been bluntly described as the sale of peerages. We doubt if the noble marquess would be permitted to use the same arguments again to-day, opinion on the matter is hardening. In the course of the present debates the wilder charges have been rebutted. But the fact remains that peerages are granted in considerable number to those whose public service does not appear to warrant the grant. It has become an established custom to issue a long list twice a year of those whom the Government desires to recognize or reward. Certain classes have of late years been marked out for benign consideration, as newspaper proprietors, and the reason is not obscure. The distribution of minor honours is correspondingly generous, there have been as many as a hundred and twenty-five knights in one list. The buying and selling of honours has perhaps been exaggerated, but since the fount of honour has now become a raging torrent it is well that a commission is to be appointed to look into the whole matter.

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