Baroness Valerie Amos has become the first black person to be appointed the Order of the Garter, Buckingham Palace has announced. Baroness Amos, a Labour member of the House of Lords was also the first black person to become a cabinet minister and has been appointed Lady Companion of the Order, the oldest and most senior British Order of Chivalry.
Baroness Amos was previously made a Companion of Honour in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2016. The new appointment can only be made by the Queen and only three have been made this year. The other two have gone to former prime minister Tony Blair and the Duchess of Cornwall. The latter has received the Order in recognition of her contribution to the monarchy.
Guyana-born Valerie Amos moved to Great Britain with her family in 1963 and built a career working for equal opportunities. As a member of the House of Lords, she served as the government spokeswoman for social security, international development, women’s issues, and foreign and Commonwealth affairs.
Between 1989 and 1994 she was chief executive of the Equal Opportunities Commission. She was a co-founder and director of Amos Fraser Bernard, advising the South African government on public service reform, human rights and employment equity. Baroness Amos became Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council in late 2003.
She held the positions of parliamentary under-Secretary for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs from June 2001, with responsibility for Africa, the Commonwealth, the Caribbean, Britain’s Overseas Territories, Consular Affairs and Personnel Issues.
Her role as International Development Secretary came after Clare Short quit the post in protest at the war in Iraq in 2003. Baroness Amos also served as a Government Whip in the House of Lords between 1998 and 2001 and spokesperson on Social Security, International Development and Women’s Issues.
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