Knighthood for North Devon MP Nick Harvey sparks row over honours
A Westcountry MP in line for a knighthood after being sacked from the Government has pointed to his 20 years' service in Parliament amid a political row over the honours system.
North Devon Liberal Democrat MP Nick Harvey was this week stripped of his job as Armed Forces Minister during the Government reshuffle.
But a day later, Mr Harvey was told he would be recommended for a knighthood by David Cameron.
Mr Harvey, 51, is one of four departing ministers set to be given the prestigious honour by the Queen. He has been MP for the North Devon constituency since 1992.
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Mr Harvey said: "To be recommended for a knighthood by the Prime Minister in recognition of my 20 years as MP for North Devon and two years as Armed Forces Minister is greatly appreciated, but of course I remain disappointed no longer to be serving in government.
"I am looking forward to the new parliamentary term where I can continue to champion the issues for North Devon and the rural South West, from the slightly freer and less regimented world of the backbenches.
"I will continue to support the coalition government, and my Liberal Democrat colleagues working so hard as part of it, and I look forward to having more time with my family."
The Prime Minister also recommended knighthoods for three existing Tory ministers – Jim Paice, Edward Garnier and Gerald Howarth.
The move ignited a row over exposing the honours system to "ridicule", and raised questions over why axed Cabinet ministers Caroline Spelman and Cheryl Gillan were not being nominated.
The Prime Minister is already facing criticism over demoting women in the reshuffle.
Just days ago, the Commons Public Administration Select Committee condemned the granting of knighthoods to businessmen and senior officials for simply "doing the day job". There was also outrage at new rules that could limit awards to British Olympic medallists.
Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter, said: "It is shameless to see David Cameron dishing out honours to failed ministers like this while refusing to honour our Olympic and Paralympic heroes and heroines.
"He also needs to explain why he's giving knighthoods to sacked male ministers while ignoring more senior women – another example of the Prime Minister's women problem. In resuscitating the political honours system, Mr Cameron is abandoning any remaining pretence of being the reforming politician he posed as before the general election."
The Prime Minister's official spokesman defended the decision to award the knighthoods. Previous premiers have made similar awards to departing government figures, he said, adding: "The Prime Minister believes that political service is an important form of public service."
In the Commons, Leader of the House of Lords Andrew Lansley said: "In this House and elsewhere, what we should do is honour public service and this is a mechanism for honouring public service."
Mr Harvey lost his job after Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg decided he wanted to sacrifice his party's ministerial post in the Ministry of Defence for a berth in the Department for Environment.