Entertainers, businessmen win British honours
LONDON, June 17 (Reuters) Britain's Queen Elizabeth gave awards to celebrities ranging from actor Charles Dance to Australian entertainer Rolf Harris today in an honours list that marked her official 80th birthday.
The twice-yearly ritual is part of an ancient and complex British honours system that has been beset by scandal this year, damaging Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Labour Party.
Dance, 59, a stage and screen veteran who starred in films such as ''White Mischief'' and ''Michael Collins'' and appeared in a British Broadcasting Corporation dramatisation of ''Bleak House'', received an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire), a mid-ranking award.
Harris -- a painter and entertainer who has been a mainstay of British television for decades -- gained the more prestigious Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).
Gary Rhodes, a celebrity television chef, soul singer Beverley Knight and actor Rudolph Walker, who plays a character in the popular BBC soap ''Eastenders'', all received awards.
Britain has a complicated system of awards and decorations that recently has been at the centre of a political scandal.
Police are probing allegations that Blair's office nominated millionaires for seats in the House of Lords -- parliament's unelected upper chamber -- in return for loans to Labour or funding for a new schools scheme.
Labour denies the allegations. A 1925 law made selling Lords seats illegal.
Appointments to the House of Lords are made separately from the honours list published on Saturday.
Most of those receiving honours are ordinary people who have made an outstanding contribution to public services such as health, education or law and order.
Several well-known businessmen received knighthoods.
They included Greek-born Stelios Haji-Ioannou, who helped revolutionise air travel by founding no-frills airline easyJet and Philip Green, a billionaire whose retail empire includes the Bhs chain.
Other awards went to author Bernard Cornwell, ballerina Darcy Bussell and Peter Lord and David Sproxton, producers of Oscar-winning animated hit ''Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were Rabbit''.
The Queen celebrates her official birthday today, although her real birthday was on April 21.
REUTERS DH RAI0621