Data chief orders naming of those who refused honours

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Yorkshire cultural icons including JB Priestley and Henry Moore are among 250 people to have turned down honours, according to newly-released Government records.

Author Roald Dahl and artist Lucian Freud are among more than 250 people who declined honours from the Queen between 1951 and 1999, according to official government records.

Painters Francis Bacon and LS Lowry and novelist Aldous Huxley are also named in the list published by the Cabinet Office.

The document, obtained under Freedom of Information laws, names a total of 277 individuals who refused prestigious accolades over the 48-year period and have since died.

The Cabinet Office was ordered to release the information by the Office of the Information Commissioner.

The disclosure is believed to be the first official confirmation that hundreds of people have snubbed OBEs, CBEs and knighthoods in the annual New Year or Birthday Honours lists.

The identities of those refusing honours normally only come to light if they volunteer the information themselves or reports are leaked.

According to the list, Lowry turned down more honours than anybody else, with a total of five, including an OBE in 1955, a CBE in 1961 and a knighthood in 1968.

The publication of the list comes as senior civil servants are due to decide whether former-Royal Bank of Scotland boss Sir Fred Goodwin should be stripped of his knighthood.

The work of the Honours Forfeiture Committee is usually confidential but the Prime Minister told MPs yesterday he expected it to sit in the coming days.

Political pressure has been mounting for the title awarded to Sir Fred in 2004 for “services to banking” to be withdrawn over his role in the subsequent collapse of RBS.

Rejecting or returning honours has been going on for years.

John Lennon returned his MBE in 1969, with a note to the Queen saying: “Your Majesty, I am returning this in protest against Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against Cold Turkey slipping down the charts. With Love, John Lennon of Bag.”

Honours have sometimes been forfeited after criminal convictions. Sir Roger Casement, a colonial officer in the Congo who was convicted of treason in the First World War, forfeited his knighthood and was executed.

However, some life peers have continued to sit in the House of Lords after prison sentences.