• Video report by ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry

The New Year’s Honours list has been met with controversy with awards for England’s World Cup winners and entertainers lauded while recognition for two prominent figures from politics and the legal profession has drawn condemnation.

Cricketers including Ben Stokes have been honoured for clinching the World Cup on home soil, while singers Sir Elton John and Olivia Newton-John have also received awards, as has filmmaker Sam Mendes.

But the bestowing of a damehood on former director of public prosecutions (DPP) Alison Saunders and a knighthood for former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith have sparked a backlash.

Ms Saunders was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the Bath for services to criminal justice despite quitting the post last year after several controversies.

Ben Stokes is among those honoured in the New Year Honours. Credit: PA

These included overseeing the infamous disclosure scandal, in which dozens of rape trials collapsed due to the late disclosure of evidence, leading to a review of every rape case in the country.

Dame Alison also attracted criticism for the handling of other sex crime allegations and investigations during her term, including claims made against the late Lord Janner and broadcaster Paul Gambaccini, who was paid a settlement over his wrongful arrest as part of Operation Yewtree.

Despite usual practice, Dame Alison did not receive an honour after quitting as head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in October last year.

Her award was believed to have been withheld after then Prime Minister Theresa May demanded an end to automatic honours for civil servants accused of failing in their roles.

Criminal QC Daniel Janner, son of the late Labour peer Lord Janner who faced child abuse allegations, last night called Dame Alison “the worst DPP in living memory” and called her damehood “appalling”.

Gabby Logan, Bake Off star Nadiya Hussain, Sir Elton John and Gary Lightbody receive gongs. Credit: PA

“She completely made a hash of my innocent late father’s ridiculous allegations.

"These have now proved to be false like the allegation that ‘Nick’ made, and she presumed guilt and introduced, followed or continued a policy of all victims are to be automatically believed,” Mr Janner said.

“As a result of this policy, it led to huge injustices against many well-known people and not-so well-known people – people like my late father, Paul Gambaccini, Harvey Proctor, and Lord Brittan and many, many others.

“This is an appalling honour which brings the honours system into disrepute.”

Dame Alison defended her award, telling The Times it was for “30 years of public service” and that it was unfair to describe it as reward for failure.

Iain Duncan Smith has been awarded a gong for the New Year Honours. Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA

Sir Iain’s honour, meanwhile, has been criticised as a reward for a “legacy of cruelty and failure”.

As work and pensions secretary under David Cameron, Sir Iain was the architect of the Government’s controversial Universal Credit welfare reforms.

Opposition parties said it “beggared belief” that someone whose policies had caused so much distress should be honoured in this way.

Labour’s Lisa Nandy lambasted the award, tweeting it was a “disgraceful decision by Boris Johnson to reward a legacy of cruelty and failure”.

“This regime deliberately removed the safety net. It stripped people of their dignity. There is no honour in that,” she added.

A Labour Party spokesman said it was “unfortunate to see that one of Boris Johnson’s first priorities” was to grant a knighthood to Sir Iain – the “primary architect of the cruel Universal Credit system, which has pushed thousands of people into poverty”.