Resignation honours: David Cameron puts former permanent secretaries in the House of Lords

Nicholas MacPherson and Peter Ricketts to become crossbenchers in the Lords, while ex-special advisers figure prominently among Cameron’s 13 new Conservative peers

By Jim Dunton

05 Aug 2016

Former HM Treasury permanent secretary Sir Nicholas MacPherson and ex-Foreign and Commonwealth Office permanent under secretary Sir Peter Ricketts are to be made crossbench peers in the House of Lords as part of David Cameron’s resignation honours.

MacPherson stepped down as the Treasury's top official earlier this year after more than a decade at the finance ministry. Ricketts, meanwhile, was the UK's national security advisor from 2010-12 and before that, led the FCO for four years. He retired from the Diplomatic Service in January.

Details of the former prime minister’s 16 resignation peerages were published alongside his controversial, widely-leaked 46-name honours list, which included rewards for Conservative politicians and aides. 

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The former prime minister’s accepted nominations for new members of the Lords include 13 Conservative appointments – seven of them either former special advisers or key staff members of Cameron and his cabinet.

Among Cameron’s new Tory peers are former head of the No 10 policy unit Camilla Cavendish; chief of staff Ed Llewellyn; head of operations Liz Sugg; appointments unit head Laura Wyld; and external relations director Gabrielle Bertin. 

Also included on the list are Charlotte Vere, former executive director at the “Conservatives In” campaign, which supported the UK remaining within the European Union, and Jonathan Caine former special adviser to ex-Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers.

Former chancellor George Osborne received the highest-level accolade in the separate honours list, securing “Companion of Honour” status in recognition of “political and public service”.

Lower down the list are knighthoods for defence secretary Michael Fallon, party chairman Patrick McLoughlin, and former Cabinet Office minister for government policy Oliver Letwin.

Almost half of Cameron’s accepted nominations were former Downing Street special advisors or political appointments.

They included CBEs for Helen Bower-Easton, Cameron’s former spokeswoman and Daniel Korski, deputy director of the No 10 policy unit, and OBEs for Neil O'Brien, Lena Pietsch, Alan Sendorek, Sheridan Westlake, and Thea Rogers. 

Will Straw, son of former Labour Party minister Jack Straw and director of the EU referendum's "Stronger In" campaign, also received a CBE in recognition of his political and public service.

May has "flunked her first test"

While the peerages for MacPherson and Ricketts, who both retired from the civil service this year, follow longstanding precedent for rewarding dedicated public service, the political nature of many of Cameron’s resignation honours was criticised by opposition parties.

Labour Party deputy leader Tom Watson criticised new prime minister Theresa May for chosing not to exercise her right to block her predecessor’s nominations, a move Downing Street said would have set "a very bad precedent".

“The confirmation of these resignation honours shows how Theresa May has flunked her first test as Conservative prime minister,” he said.

“If she were serious about governing for the many not the few Theresa May would have vetoed this list of Tory donors, political advisers and ministers.

“The fact she has allowed this cronyism to go ahead shows that the Tories will always put their own interests first.”

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said the honours list was “so full of cronies it would embarrass a medieval court”.

The honours for Special Advisers come after Cameron – in one of his last acts in office – drove through changes to severance terms that sought to boost advisers’ exit packages, against the advice of Cabinet Office perm sec John Manzoni. 

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