Wales politics

St David Awards: Welsh honours system announced

Dame Shirley Bassey
Shirley Bassey was made a dame in the New Year Honours in 2000

A Welsh honours system recognising "ordinary people who do extraordinary things" has been announced during a debate in the Senedd.

The first recipients could be presented with the St David Awards next year, but it is unclear how much it will cost to introduce or what shape it will take.

The debate also looked at the possibility of making St David's Day a bank holiday.

The Conservatives said the award needed to be independent of government.

Meanwhile, the TaxPayers' Alliance questioned the introduction of a new honour at a time when public bodies were making cuts.

Welsh people from all walks of life are already recognised along with others throughout the UK and Commonwealth in the annual New Year and Queen's Birthday Honours lists.

First Minister Carwyn Jones announced the new award in the Senedd after a Welsh Conservative motion called for a new Welsh honours system and for St David's Day to be made a bank holiday.

The Conservatives, Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Liberal Democrats made a commitment to a bank holiday on 1 March in their 2011 election manifestos, while the Conservatives have proposed a Welsh "Order of St David's" for some years.

Outlining the Welsh government's proposals to launch a new awards system, Mr Jones said: "I have often felt humbled by the extraordinary stories of individuals who work tirelessly, without publicity or self-interest, for the benefit of others and who genuinely make Wales a better place.

"I can today announce that from 2014 I will be launching the St David Awards. These awards will present opportunity for nominations from a broad range of walks of life to be recognised.

"Work is currently being carried out by my officials to identify the appropriate sectors for recognition and the deliberation process for making the awards.

"A starting point will be ordinary people who do extraordinary things."

'Powerful contribution'

He said the award would recognise people who did more than they needed to, and those who made a difference to the quality of life in Wales.

"I want to see a strong business component in the awards - the private sector is the lifeblood of our economy and I want to see that dimension properly recognised," he added.

"I would also like to see recognition for individuals who contribute to raising Wales' profile in the world - this, too, makes a powerful contribution to both our social and economic well-being."

Conservative Suzy Davies, the shadow heritage minister, said the St David Awards were in danger of being seen as government awards and they needed to be independent.

"A system which reflects and demonstrates honour bestowed by the Welsh nation needs to be independent of government and consensus around this is clearly emerging," she said.

Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said it was good to recognise achievement, but the cost of new awards and of the committees put together to select recipients, must be kept to a minimum.

"Public bodies are making necessary spending cuts, so many taxpayers will question the timing of announcing new initiatives that could cost even more money when savings have to be made," he added.

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