UK Politics

Queen's Birthday Honours: Paul Kenny, Simon Hughes and Simon Burns knighted

Paul Kenny Image copyright PA

Trade union leader Paul Kenny has been knighted in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

Sir Paul, the general secretary of the GMB union, said the award was for "every trade unionist trying to make the world a better place".

Conservative MP Simon Burns and former Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes also receive knighthoods.

Former Conservative MP Anthony Steen has been appointed CBE for his campaigning work on human trafficking.

Mr Steen stood down from Parliament in 2010 after he was criticised for suggesting critics of his expenses claims were "jealous" of his "very, very large house".

After standing down, he set up the Human Trafficking Foundation and was appointed as a special envoy to Home Secretary Theresa May on the issue.

'Crucial role'

Mr Kenny is one of only a handful of trade union leaders to be knighted in the history of the honours list.

"I have accepted this as recognition of the crucial role trade unions play in society," he said.

However he went on to say that he would happily give up his title in return for better rights for low-paid workers.

"I would swap it tomorrow for the introduction of the Living Wage," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"In the last few weeks alone I have met with the Pope and he thinks trade unions are great and people should join them, I have met with the President of Ireland and he thinks trade unions are great and people should join them.

"The Queen now recognises that trade unions have a great role to play in a modern society and recognises the contribution that trade unionists make."

The only people criticising the award were "the same old ideological fruitcakes" who refused to recognise the role of the union movement, he added.

The 65-year-old, who was honoured for his service to trade unions, worked his way up through the GMB's ranks having left school at 15 and previously worked at a brewery and as a postman.

He recently said the Labour Party would go "bankrupt" without union support.

Image caption Simon Burns joked about his prickly relationship with the Speaker after the Queen's Speech
Image caption Simon Hughes lost his seat to Labour at the general election

Simon Hughes, who lost his Bermondsey and Old Southwark seat at the general election after 32 years, was knighted for public and political service.

He stepped down as Lib Dem deputy leader after being appointed justice minister in 2013.

Simon Burns, knighted for parliamentary and political service, was first elected as Conservative MP for Chelmsford in 1987.

He was a minister in the Department of Health in the last government, and also worked as rail minister.

The Conservative MP was chosen to propose the loyal address after the Queen's Speech last month, making jokes about his clashes with Speaker John Bercow.

Conservative donor and former treasurer Henry Angest has been awarded a knighthood for political service.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Honours Committee, Sir Jonathan Stephens, said he was "disappointed" that honours for comedian Lenny Henry and actor Benedict Cumberbatch had been leaked to the media before their official announcement.

The Cabinet Office launched an inquiry into the leaking of names in the previous New Year Honours list.

Sir Jonathan said the committee had tightened security since those announcements six months ago, but would have to look again at its procedures to restrict access to the list.