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New Years Honours: A guide

Friday, December 28, 2012
10:51 AM

The New Years Honours list is about to be released, and hundreds of people will be acknowledged for their work in a variety of fields.

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The honours system recognises people who have made great achievements in public life and people who have committed themselves to serving Britain.

Honours are given out for achievements including making a difference to a community or field of work, enhancing Britain’s reputation, long-term voluntary service and displaying moral courage and vision in making and delivering tough choices.

People can be involved in fields including arts and media, health, education and more.

There are a number of different honours, and which honour goes to which person is decided by the honours committee. Here is a list of the honours that are awarded:

Companion of Honour

A major contribution to the arts, science, medicine, or government lasting over a long period of time.


A major contribution in any activity, usually at national level. Other people working in the nominee’s area will see their contribution as inspirational and significant, requiring commitment over a long period of time.

Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)

A prominent but lesser role at national level, or a leading role at regional level. You can also get one for a distinguished, innovative contribution to any area.

Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)

A major local role in any activity, including people whose work has made them known nationally in their chosen area.

Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)

A significant achievement or outstanding service to the community. An MBE is also awarded for local ‘hands-on’ service which stands out as an example to other people.

British Empire Medal (BEM)

Reintroduced in 2012, this rewards a sustained, local contribution or innovative, high-impact work of a relatively short duration (eg 3 to 4 years).

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