Tony Blair receives knighthood in queen’s honours list

UK’s medical chiefs recognised for ‘dedication and commitment’ during pandemic

The medical chiefs leading the UK's battle against coronavirus have been recognised in the New Year Honours list while Queen Elizabeth has knighted former prime minister Tony Blair.

The longest-serving Labour prime minister said it was an "immense honour" to have been made a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, the oldest and most senior British Order of Chivalry, to which appointments are in the queen's gift without advice from the government.

England's chief medical officer (CMO), Prof Chris Whitty, deputy CMO, Jonathan Van-Tam, and Wales' and Scotland's CMOs, Frank Atherton and Dr Gregor Smith, have been given knighthoods.

There are also damehoods for UK Health Security Agency chief, Dr Jenny Harries, and Dr June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), after a year in which the threat of new variants arose and more than 130 million vaccinations were administered.

The Government's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, who was originally knighted in the 2019 New Year Honours list, is elevated to a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath.

Team GB's Olympians and Paralympians who took gold in Tokyo are among those named, including cyclists Jason and Laura Kenny, who are thought to be the first married couple to be recognised on the same honours list.

And teenage tennis sensation Emma Raducanu has added another title after winning the US Open in September, as she can now say she is a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).

The UK cabinet office said nearly one in five (19 per cent) of the honours are for Covid-related service.

Scientists have played a central role in keeping the public informed during briefings throughout the year in response to Covid-19 and are being recognised for services to public health and science.

Sir Patrick said: “I am really pleased to see so many outstanding scientists and engineers recognised in this year’s honours, including those that have been working tirelessly as part of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

And the MHRA chief, Dame June, said: "I am enormously honoured by this recognition of the substantial contribution which the MHRA has made to the nation's response to Covid-19 over the last two years.

“This is thanks to the dedication and commitment of all our talented staff, who work so tirelessly to make sure vaccines, therapeutics and medical devices are safe and effective for people across the UK.”

In a separate announcement, Buckingham Palace said Labour peer Baroness Amos has become the first black person to be appointed to the Order of the Garter, while the Duchess of Cornwall is also appointed to join other senior royals.

Mr Blair said he was “deeply grateful” to the queen and added: “It was a great privilege to serve as prime minister and I would like to thank all those who served alongside me, in politics, public service and all parts of our society, for their dedication and commitment to our country.”

Elsewhere in politics, former Labour MP Frank Field, now a crossbench peer, has been made a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour for his public and political service.

On the list, 15.1 per cent of recipients are from an ethnic minority background, slightly higher than the line-up in June, but just 35.9 per cent of recipients at CBE level and above are women.

In entertainment, Daniel Craig has been given a special diplomatic honour after his final outing as James Bond in No Time To Die.

The departing 007 is made a companion of the Order of St Michael and St George – which is styled CMG and was also conferred on the fictional spy in the film series and Ian Fleming’s books.

Actresses Joanna Lumley and Vanessa Redgrave are to be made dames, while James Bond franchise producer Barbara Broccoli will be made a CBE.

Diversity member Ashley Banjo and former Spice Girl Mel B are both to be made an MBE.

British prime minister Boris Johnson said: "These recipients have inspired and entertained us and given so much to their communities in the UK or in many cases around the world.

“The honours are an opportunity for us to thank them, as a country, for their dedication and outstanding contribution.” – PA

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