Anger as foreign aid chief receives knighthood

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The head of Britain's foreign aid department has come under fire after he was awarded a knighthood in the New Year Honours.

Mark Lowcock, permanent secretary at the Department for International Development, has been honoured despite controversy over the £12 billion that gets sent overseas each year.

The honour comes just weeks after the £160,000-a-year civil servant was criticised for building a £285 million airport on the remote island of St Helena, where it is too windy for commercial planes to land.

Theresa May had previously pledged to shake up the honours system, amid accusations of cronyism.

But Labour MP John Mann told The Telegraph the latest batch of honours was "more reward for failure, an irritation that needs preventing in the future".

Tory MP Philip Davies, meanwhile, told the Daily Mail that Sir Mark should be known as "Sir Waste-a-Lot" given the costly mistakes made by his department.

He added: "He certainly hasn't been knighted for services to the UK taxpayer.

"If squandering billions of pounds on greedy consultants and corrupt countries, and having the highest paid staff in the civil service gets you a knighthood these days, then God help us.

"It certainly detracts from the other very deserving people on the list."

Sir Mark has spent his entire career at the Department for International Development (Dfid), starting in 1985 and rising to become its most senior civil servant in 2011.

Theresa May's former department, the Home Office, has been awarded more honours than any other in Whitehall, reports The Telegraph.

Other public servants to have received honours include Sarah Pearson, head of customer services at the personal tax division of HM Revenue and Customs, Oliver Morley, the chief executive of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, and David Behan, who has been chief executive of the Care Quality Commission since 2012.

Tory donor David Ord, who has given the party £930,000, is also knighted for "political service", as is Dominic Johnson, associate treasurer of the Conservative Party and now CBE, who gave the Cameron family somewhere to stay when they left Downing Street in July.

A spokesman for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told The Guardian: "The Conservatives are making a mockery of our honours system.

"Every crony appointment is an insult to the incredible people from right across Britain who are rewarded for the great contributions they make to our national life."