Tory MP Geoffrey Cox gets knighthood after prorogation of parliament controversy

The gong comes despite the Tory MP’s prominent role in last year’s controversial shutdown of parliament – as opposition MPs accused No 10 of scheming to avoid scrutiny over its Brexit plans. Mr Cox advised Boris Johnson’s government that it was legal to prorogue parliament for five weeks in autumn 2019, only for the move to be ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court. Supreme Court president Lady Hale dismissed the government’s claim that prorogation was simply a routine step, finding it “unlawful” because it “prevented parliament from carrying out its constitutional role”.

Mr Cox – who branded parliament a “disgrace” and rebutted calls for his resignation in the aftermath of the debacle – was sacked as attorney general in Mr Johnson’s February reshuffle. Among the other politicians recognised in this year’s list, Labour’s Angela Eagle has been made a dame. The long-time MP for Wallasey in Merseyside is known for her work promoting women’s and minority rights.

While prominent Brexit-backers such as John Redwood and Iain Duncan Smith were recognised in the new year honours in 2018 and 2019, this year’s list was largely free of controversy.

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Thomas Clarke, former Labour MP for Coatbridge and ex-tourism minister was given a knighthood for his public and political service, while Dr Paul Williams – former Labour MP for Stockton South – was given a OBE for services to parliament and to healthcare.

Among prominent Whitehall figures to be given gongs, Robert Chote, the departing chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility, received a knighthood. Katherine Edda Escott, the strategy director at the Ministry of Defence, becomes a companion of the Order of the Bath. Jonathan McMillen, civil servant in charge of the Syrian Refugee Project at the Department for Communities, has been given a British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to refugees.

The project has seen refugees being resettled in the UK since 2015, but the coronavirus pandemic halted the work earlier this year. “Originally we committed to taking up to 2,000, we got very close to that target and I imagine we will be taking more once it is safe to do so,” Mr McMillen said. It comes as Cabinet Office officials confirmed there are no plans to remove the words “British Empire” from the honours system. Earlier this month, shadow education secretary Kate Green called the system “offensive and divisive”.

There were suggestions the word empire could be replaced with “excellence” following the wave of protests inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Welsh actor Michael Sheen revealed on Tuesday that he handed back his OBE so he could air his views about the monarchy and its role in Wales without being a “hypocrite”.

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