Unequal Honour

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Real achievement

It is always a pleasure to start the New Year by reading of the honours awarded for truly outstanding achievement or service to mankind.

Our friend, Nigel Linacre, for example, was awarded a British Empire Medal in the recent New Years’ Honours List.  A little over ten years ago, in the course of his professional work in Sub-Saharan Africa, he became aware of a pressing need for schools in the region to have supplies of clean water.  He got cracking and founded the charity ‘WellBoring’ (charity number 1142295) which has now raised substantial funds from private sector donors and installed over 300 wells in schools in the region.  In doing so the charity has reduced disease amongst the schools’ pupils and ensured the continuity of the education of hundreds of thousands of children who otherwise would have, due to water-borne disease, had their education continually interrupted, had their long-term health impaired or, in some cases, died. 

Honoured for doing one’s job

And then there is the amusement to be had from considering the award of honours to HMRC staff for doing their jobs. 

Ten HMRC staff, none named Buggins, received honours, including two CBEs, in the same list. 

One award was described as being for ‘volunteering’. That award was not, one presumes, conferred for activities in the course of the recipient’s paid employment.

Public service?

All the rest, however, seem to have been awarded for activities which were conducted in the course of the recipients’ employment.  One was for ‘services to autism and neurodiversity’.  Seven were for ‘public service’. These included awards to individuals employed in various Orwellianly-named activities; for example to a ‘Director, Compliance Operations’ a ‘Head of Payment Strategy’ and an individual employed in the ‘Customer Compliance Group’.  All HMRC’s staff ought to be engaged in public service, although we doubt that is a correct description of much of their actual activities, but one wonders what is so special about these seven individuals’ activities that led to the award of their honours. 

An invidious distinction?

One individual’s award was singled out for what, seems to us at least, a rather invidious distinction.  His honour was ‘for services to asset recovery’.  We wonder what it is about ‘asset recovery’ which makes it less of a public service than directing ‘compliance operations’, heading ‘payment strategy’ or being part of a ‘Customer Compliance Group’. 

The knowledgeable ten per-cent

One must not mock these, no doubt, very worthy individuals but one detail did strike us. Amongst the Honoured Ten, we were rather surprised to find one described as a ‘tax specialist’.  Perhaps naively, we had assumed that most of HMRC’s senior staff would know enough about tax to be described in that way. 

Published in
6 January 2023
Last Updated
13 January 2023