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'No quota for Olympic honours'
3:44pm Monday 20th August 2012 in London Olympics 2012 - Latest News
Downing Street insisted today that there is no quota for the award of honours to Britain's gold medal-winning Olympic athletes.
The success of Team GB - with 43 athletes collecting gold and more expected in the Paralympics - has prompted speculation some could miss out in the New Year Honours List.
The most senior civil servant at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport cautioned at the weekend there would be no "automatic gong" for winning gold in the London Games.
Jonathan Stephens said the sports honours committee - which makes recommendations for awards - would be looking to recognise those who "put something back" as well as succeeding in their chosen event.
No 10 today rejected reports that new rules drawn up by the head of the Civil Service Sir Bob Kerslake - who chairs the main honours committee - meant there was a limit to the number of honours which could go to Team GB.
"Honours are awarded on merit, not according to quotas," the Prime Minister's official spokesman said.
However his comments appeared at odds with Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson - the former Paralympic gold medallist who now sits on the sports honours committee - who said they were restricted in the number of awards they could make.
In a normal year, she said, they would be restricted to one or two knighthoods, "a few more" CBEs and between 45 to 50 MBEs - the lowest tier in the honours system.
While there might be "a little room for manoeuvre" in the light of Team GB's success, she said they were trying to "manage expectation" ahead of the publication of the Honours List at the end of the year.
"We do have a limit on the numbers that we can award each year. I think that is where we are trying to manage expectation," she told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
"The sports honours committee can't just give out 20 knighthoods or 20 dames. We have a number each year that we allocate.
"Although there might be a little room for manoeuvre with the success of this year's Olympics and hopefully Paralympics, we are trying to manage expectation a little bit."
She said that gold medallists - who in the past might have expected an MBE as a matter of course - would have to be considered alongside those who had contributed through years of volunteering.
"We'd love to give out honours to absolutely everyone but I think the key is in the title - it's an honour, it's not an automatic reward," she said.
"In sports honours, what we are trying to do, we are trying to balance achievement in sport against somebody who has maybe volunteered for a number of years."