IF the New Year honours seem somewhat less interesting than usual this may be because Gordon Brown has shown restraint in refusing to add names to the list submitted to him by the civil service committees which oversee the vetting of nominations received from various quarters. In the past prime ministers habitually added names, especially for peerages, that had political connotations. The Select Committee on Public Administration, chaired by the Labour MP Tony Wright, proposed an end to this practice in a recent report and Mr Brown has accepted the recommendation which will become part of a raft of changes likely to be included in a White Paper on the constitutional reform in the New Year.
The emphasis of yesterday's list was on people involved in charitable and voluntary work -- almost 80 per cent of the 834 OBEs and MBEs awarded -- and also on some of those who gave exceptional service during the summer floods in Britain. There are, of course, also awards for people already in the public eye. Kylie Minogue's OBE was one of these, as were knighthoods to Nicholas Kenyon who directed the BBC Proms for the past decade and to Michael Parkinson as he retires from the chat-show business. There will be general approval of the knighthood for Stuart Rose who has restored Marks & Spencer to its former glory. Other names to be noted are Sir Ian McKellan's Companion of Honour award, and Jacqueline Wilson's, the children's author, who becomes a Dame.