Recommendations for Honours
In New Zealand the procedure for recommending candidates for the New Year or Birthday lists is quite unofficial and, in the event of fewer names being received than the honours available, the Government never canvasses to fill the lists. Nor is it in any way mandatory that recommendations should be made. No recommendations were sent forward for the Birthday list in 1931 “for it was felt that with the depression and the serious economic crisis the matter was one that could well stand over until the next opportunity”. This reason still applied when recommendations for the 1932 New Year list were considered, and again no New Zealand names were sent forward. In 1940 the practice of forwarding New Zealand names for inclusion in the list of civil honours was discontinued for the duration of the war and was not resumed until New Year 1946. Following the publication of the Birthday list in June 1946, the Prime Minister was questioned in the House about the procedure of recommendation for honours. He replied: “It has been the custom for many years for His Majesty's advisers to receive recommendations and sometimes requests from many sources, including members of Parliament, local bodies, and various organisations, for names to be placed on the honours list. These are carefully scrutinised and considered, due regard being paid to geographical allocation. The final acceptance does not … rest with His Majesty's advisers. As the honours to be conferred are limited in number a certain amount of criticism can be expected”. When pressed for an explanation of the sources of such recommendations the Prime Minister said: “Ever since the country had been a Crown Colony, the intention aimed at and the invariable practice in dealing with honours was that those people or organisations who considered certain persons had given faithful service in some public capacity, that was conducive to the advancement or benefit of the country and its people, would submit the names to His Majesty's advisers, and the list of names would be considered with due regard to the geographical allocation…. The Government had always accepted suggestions from both sides of both Houses and from representatives of local bodies, such as chairmen of county councils, but no government could guarantee that all suggestions would be adopted, because there was only a limited number of honours available and a selection had to be made – indeed any public body or private person could make recommendations….”.
In view of the very large number of candidates for the few honours available, there are often criticisms about prominent or deserving persons being omitted from the lists. In many cases a name many be omitted because it is felt that there is no fitting honour available. Such a person may not be offered a Knight Bachelorship because it is felt that his services merit a K.C.M.G. or higher, and there may not be a vacancy in the appropriate order. In most cases, also, the persons recommended are not approached in the matter until the recommendation has been approved by the Sovereign. Before the lists are gazetted they are then asked if they will accept the honour.
by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.
- The Statutes of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (1948)
- The Statutes of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George (1954)
- The Statutes of the Royal Victorian Order (consolidated and revised, 1936)
- The Statutes of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (1954)
- The Statutes of the Imperial Service Order (1954)
- Guide to Titles, Pine, L. G. (1959)
- De Brett's Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage and Companionage (1954)
- New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, Vol. 273 (3 Jul 1946)
- Dominion, 5 Jul 1946, 26 Sep 1957.