The history of Prime Minister's Resignation Honours

The Prime Minister's Resignation Honours have been gazetted in the London Gazette since 1895. Following the publishing of Theresa May’s list, we take a look at the history of Resignation Honours.

Prime Minister's Resignation Honours

What are Prime Minister’s Resignation Honours?

The Prime Minister's Resignation Honours are honours granted at the behest of an outgoing UK Prime Minister following his/her resignation. In such a list, a Prime Minister may request the reigning monarch to grant peerages, knighthoods, damehoods or other awards in the British honours system to any number of people.

Though some have chosen not to (for various reasons), all departing Prime Ministers can draw up a Resignation Honours list, which is then sent to the Cabinet Office for ‘probity and propriety checks’. In the case of peerages, the House of Lords Appointments Commission vets the list. Often, but not always, Downing Street staff, political aides and Members of Parliament are rewarded through Resignation Honours.

When were the first Prime Minister’s Resignation Honours?

The first Prime Minister's Resignation Honours list was announced in the British press on 1 July 1895 following the resignation of Lord Rosebery on 22 June. The appointments to the Order of the Bath appeared officially in the London Gazette (Gazette issue 26639) on 2 July 1895.

Why are Prime Minister’s Resignation Honours sometimes controversial?

Some Prime Minister’s Resignation Honours lists have been met by controversy. The 1976 Resignation Honours list of Harold Wilson (Gazette issue 46916), in particular, drew much criticism. Known satirically as the ‘Lavender List’, Wilson gave peerages and knighthoods to various wealthy businessmen who, according to many, shared contrary political principles to Wilson and his Labour Party.

More recently, the ‘Cash for Honours’ scandal (which surfaced after several men nominated for life peerages by Tony Blair in 2006 were rejected by the House of Lords Appointments Commission) meant that Tony Blair did not submit a Resignation Honours list in 2007. Gordon Brown also did not publish a Resignation Honours list, though a dissolution list was issued on his advice. (Gazette issue 59459)

Following his resignation as Prime Minister, David Cameron revived the practice of Resignation Honours by publishing his own in the London Gazette (Gazette issue 61678) on 16 August 2016. His successor, Theresa May, followed suit with a list officially published in the London Gazette in October 2019. (Gazette issue 62807)

Full list of Prime Minister’s Resignation Honours

The London Gazette has published all Prime Minister’s Resignation Honours lists in supplements since 1895:

See also

What is the difference between a CBE, OBE, MBE and a knighthood?

Birthday and New Year honours lists (1940 to 2019)

Birthday and New Year honours lists (1860 to 1939)