Birthday Honours: 'Working class' British Empire Medal revived

A British Empire Medal The British Empire Medal was scrapped as part of efforts to make the honours system "classless"

Some 293 people from across the UK have received the British Empire Medal in the 2012 Queen's Birthday Honours.

The BEM - sometimes called the "working class" gong - was scrapped in 1993 but revived by David Cameron to recognise "the dedication and hard work so many provide to their communities".

One recipient, road sweeper Anthony Cleland, said it showed "ordinary people deserve to be recognised".

Fundraisers, scout leaders and sports coaches are also among those honoured.

Founded in 1917, the BEM was scrapped by Conservative Prime Minister John Major as part of efforts to make the honours system "classless".

However, Mr Cameron announced last year it would be reinstated to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

Boxing and beekeeping

Those receiving the honour include:

  • Terry Downes, 76, from Hertfordshire, the oldest surviving winner of a boxing world title, who is recognised for his charity work and services to the sport
  • Audrey Lloyd, recognised for her efforts over more than 30 years to improve the lives of residents in Whale Hill, a deprived area of Middlesbrough
  • Anne Vance, recognised for services to people with mental illness in Northern Ireland through her work for the befriending scheme, Praxis Care
  • Alice and Milly Pyne, from Cumbria, who have raised more than £31,000 for research into Hodgkins Lymphoma
  • Geoffrey Hopkinson, from Staffordshire, recognised for services to beekeeping and environmental education

Widower Mr Cleland, 62, is being recognised for services to his community after 25 years cleaning the streets of Lambeth, south London.

He said: "I am very proud and I think it's great that the BEM has been brought back, it shows that ordinary people deserve to be recognised as well.

Start Quote

It's very, very local contribution, hands-on action on the ground”

End Quote Sir Bob Kerslake

"My children are over the moon about it and my colleagues think it's great that a road sweeper is being honoured.

Sir Bob Kerslake, who chairs the honours committee, said the BEM's reinstatement reflected Mr Cameron's own priorities.

"One of the clear steers from the prime minister has been his desire to reflect in the honours system commitments around the Big Society, and to recognise in a very strong way the contribution of people to the community through voluntary effort," he said.

"It very much fits with that agenda of recognising community contribution, and it's very, very local contribution, hands-on action on the ground."

Unlike other honours, the BEM is not awarded by the Queen or Prince of Wales but by Lord-Lieutenants, who are the representatives of the Crown for each county in the UK.

All of the recipients will, however, be invited to a Buckingham Palace garden party to celebrate their achievements.

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